By Pat White GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Air Force coach Frank Serratore said after his team's 5-1 victory, that the score could have easily been reversed in Penn State's favor if it wasn't for his goaltender Jason Torf.
"I've never had a team in 25 years play that badly and win by a 5-1 score," Serratore said. "We have a better chance of hitting the Powerball than we do of winning again playing that poorly."
Serratore's assessment proved to be true as Penn State rebounded to beat Air Force 5-1 on Saturday night at Greenberg Ice Pavilion. Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said his team made great strides to defeat a team that has been to the NCAA tournament five of the last six years.
"This is an excellent program," Gadowsky said. "I'm pumped right now. This is a big step (for our program)."
Freshman goaltender Matthew Skoff (McKees Rocks, Pa.) got the start for Penn State in Saturday's game, and made the most of the opportunity. He made 31 saves in his second victory of the season, and was locked into the game from the start.
"I definitely felt really good before the game," Skoff said. "We had a tough loss (Friday) night. We deserved a better fate. Our team was ready to go from the get-go."
Gadowsky praised his freshman net-minder for his communication with the defense that calmed the team down.
"I thought he looked good right from the start," Gadowsky said. "When he's mentally focused, he's just so tough. He is very vocal at the same time. He's a calming influence and he's very helpful with his communication. He played a great game."
Penn State limited Air Force to one power play goal on eight chances in the weekend series and both coaches agreed that the goaltender has to be the best penalty killer, and Skoff was just that on Saturday.
Some injuries in the Nittany Lion lineup have given some players an opportunity to see the ice. Seniors Brian Dolan (Havertown, Pa.) and Dominic Morrone (Sewell, N.J.), as well as sophomore Jake Friedman (West Bloomfield, Mich.) made the most of their opportunities, and provided some much needed energy to the team. Morrone played on the first line with sophomore Max Gardiner (Deephaven, Minn.) and freshman Casey Bailey (Anchorage, Alaska).
"We wanted to pump up some energy," Gadowsky said. "I think Dom (Morrone) fits there. He's not the biggest guy, but he doesn't mind getting dirty in front."
Gardiner said that Morrone created some good opportunities and meshed well with Bailey and himself.
"(Morrone) did a good job stepping in," Gardiner said. "He got thrown right into the fire against one of the best opponents we faced. He worked hard and had a few nice chances."
Friedman played in his first game of the season and consistently made small plays to put Penn State in position to win the game. Gadowsky liked the energy Friedman provided.
"Friedman is a guy you love on your team," said Gadowsky. "He's just smiling, raring to go, and I thought we could use a little bit of an energy injection. I thought he played a really good game."
Along with the strong play of Morrone and Friedman, Gadowsky said his defensive unit played a strong game. He lauded the play of his defensemen, especially freshmen Connor Varley (Lansdale, Pa.) and Joseph Lordo (St. Louis, Mo.) and the senior Dolan
"The deeper you are the better. I thought tonight they were excellent," said Gadowsky. "I thought our defense really responded from last night. I don't think (Friday) night they were proud of themselves. I think tonight they should be."
Penn State will have a week of rest before the Thanksgiving holiday leading up to a highly anticipated matchup against Union College on Nov. 23. Union was a Frozen Four team a year ago, and is currently ranked No. 8 in the USCHO poll. The weekend matchup is set to be one of the toughest for the young Nittany Lions.