By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Greenberg Ice Pavilion had a playoff feel to it as the Penn State Nittany Lions played their inaugural NCAA Division I game against the American International Yellow Jackets Friday night. However, the Yellow Jackets would crash the party, defeating Penn State 3-2 in overtime.
Penn State University President, Rodney Erickson, dropped the ceremonial first puck to start the inaugural season of Division I hockey in Happy Valley. The Penn State faithful flooded in a wave of blue and white, providing the team with fantastic fan support. American International goaltender, Ben Meisner, applauded the support of the fans.
"In the locker room everyone is so appreciative that we got to play against Penn State," Meisner said. "It was probably one of the best atmospheres I have ever played in. (The arena) is smaller than what I'm used to. You have the fans right on top of you screaming."
The Nittany Lions had a lot of fire to start the game, but an early penalty by freshman defender Mark Yanis gave the Yellow Jackets an opportunity on the power play.
American International would capitalize on the man advantage when forward Adam Pleskach banked the puck off the end boards where forward Nathan Sliwinski found the rebound and beat freshman goaltender Matt Skoff to give the Yellow Jackets the early lead.
Penn State would not be discouraged. The Nittany Lions controlled the tempo in the offensive zone for the remainder of the first period. They fired 20 first period shots at Meisner, but could not beat to senior goaltender.
The offensive zone dominance would continue in second period for Penn State. The line of sophomore Max Gardiner, freshman Casey Bailey, and freshman Jonathan Milley kept the pressure on the Yellow Jackets with good work on the cycle. Bailey had a great opportunity on an open-net, but could not find the pass from Gardiner.
Penn State would finally find an answer to the superb play of Meisner. Just over four minutes in the second period, Bailey would corral a rebound on the side of the net and beat Meisner to score the first NCAA Division I goal for the Nittany Lions. The students section erupted after the goal and added extra energy to the game. Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky spoke about the crowd energy after the game.
"I love the student section and to see the crowd, it was fantastic," Gadowsky said. "This is why recruits and other people come (to Penn State). This is why I came here."
American International would regain the lead mid-way through the period. A few Penn State miscues in the defensive zone led to chances by the Yellow Jackets in the slot area. In the end, senior defenseman Chris Markiewicz found the rebound, and banked it off of Skoff for the goal.
The Nittany Lions kept the pressure on in the third period. The sustained offensive pressure caused the Yellow Jackets to take some penalties. The physical play was turned up a notch, especially from freshman forward Kenny Brooks. After the game, Gadowsky said the line of Brooks and fellow freshmen Curtis Loik and David Glen was the best line on the ice. The three freshmen showed a great mix of skill and physicality.
The Nittany Lions would continue to put the pressure on and would finally capitalize. Freshman defender Mark Yanis sprung forward Taylor Holstrom on a breakaway. Holstrom, who missed on a breakaway minutes before, ripped a shot over the glove of Meisner to even the game at two.
The game would go into overtime and featured some good back-and-forth work by both teams. The Yellow Jackets would ultimately score when junior John Puskar deflected a shot from the point and beat Skoff to end the game. Gadowsky said that despite the loss, there is a reason to be proud of the game.
"It is just not about wins and losses," Gadowsky said. "This is our first Division I game. We have a lot to be proud of, especially our offense. We see a lot of optimism for our future."
Positives Overshadow Defeat to American International
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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