Lions Shine in Record-Setting NCAA Debut

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

CINCINNATI, Ohio - Third-seeded Penn State skated confidently into the NCAA regional finals, putting on a dominant performance in a 10-3 win against second-seeded Union Saturday.

From program records to shorthanded goals, the Nittany Lions highlighted their first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history with a five-goal third period to stun the Dutchmen in a run away victory. 

Both Penn State and Union set the pace from the start with a flurry of scoring in the first period. Freshman Brandon Biro etched his name into Penn State hockey history scoring the first NCAA Tournament goal in program history off an assist from sophomore Chase Berger. Union quickly answered just a little over a minute later to even the score. 

"We were kind of on our heels to start off the game," Biro said. "Berger made a great play on the wall and it just kind of happened to go off my stick and in. I think it was pretty good for us to just get our feet going there and to get a little bit of momentum." 

Penn State looked to jump ahead again with a Berger goal off the feed from sophomore Andrew Sturtz. Even quicker than before though, the Dutchmen quieted the largely Nittany Lion contingent in the stands at U.S. Bank Arena with yet another equalizer a mere 24 seconds later.

Freshman Kris Myllari opened the second period with a rocket from near the blue line to give Penn State its third lead of the game. Union was on the rebound once again though, capitalizing of the first penalty of the night, as the Dutchmen's Spencer Foo zigzagged his second goal of the night past freshman Peyton Jones on the power play to tie the score, 3-3. Jones finished solid in the net for the Nittany Lions without surrendering another goal for the rest of the night, tallying 22 saves.

The Nittany Lions responded with Berger's second goal of the night, which was confirmed after a brief review, before senior Dylan Richard added a goal off of a Myllari rebound to give Penn State its largest lead of the night, 5-3, headed into the final period of play.

"The two-goal lead was really important because every time we had one, they came back," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "Every time we scored and they came back we said, this time we have to get the next one and we didn't until then." 

Penn State came out firing in the third period, as freshman Nate Sucese fired a shot off a David Goodwin rebound to send the Nittany Lions ahead 6-3 just 1:10 into the third period.

"Going into the third we knew we just wanted to play Penn State hockey like we have all year," Sucese said. "Being up two goals there and being lucky enough to go up three goals was huge. I think we really got rolling there after that sixth one. It was a blast."

In retrospect, rolling, is perhaps an understatement as Penn State poured on another four goals in the third period to cruise into the NCAA regional finals. 

By the 14:58 mark in the third period, sophomore Vince Pedrie's shorthanded goal was simply icing on the cake before Sucese's second goal of the game set both a program and NCAA Tournament record for the most goals scored in a single game. The 10-goal tally breaks an NCAA record for a first time tournament team originally set in 1990.

In a balanced offensive showing, a total of eight different Nittany Lions combined for the record-setting 10 goals on 33 shots. 

"Every line was going, it wasn't just one big line or one big guy," Berger said. "I think the strength of our team is how deep we are and I'd love to see that keep going, everybody producing." 

For Gadowsky, Penn State's offensive surge wasn't anything he hasn't expect from his Nittany Lions all year long.

"I think they were just finishing," Gadowsky said. "A couple of those shots hit the post and went in rather than hitting the post and going out. They just finished. We've had guys who have been goal scorers all season and they certainly showed that tonight." 

For both the Nittany Lions and Gadowsky though, the success of the offense wasn't without a tremendous defensive effort, powered by swift adjustments to shut down a particularly potent Union offense.

 "I think the more we play in the offensive zone, we don't have to play defense, so our d-men are winning battles in the corner, transitioning up to forwards and we were able to keep it down low in there tonight and the more we play in their end," Berger said. "Like I said, that's all the defense because they're getting the pucks out of our end."

As joyful as a statement win against a seasoned NCAA Tournament team is though, among a brief moment to savor the victory, it's well known that there's still work to be done. Penn State is now tasked with shifting the momentum toward top-seeded Denver, in a regional finals matchup set for Sunday, March 26 at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.

"It's very special," Goodwin said. "It's something I've dreamt about, to be honest. I don't know, it will feel a lot better with a win against Denver tomorrow."
Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

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