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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The No. 15 Penn State men's hockey team ran into a potent offense in. No. 6 Michigan as the Wolverines took a 7-4 victory in front of 6,108 fans inside Pegula Ice Arena on Thursday night. Four Nittany Lions tallied goals and Connor Varley (Lansdale, Pa.) led PSU's skaters with two assists.
"What a tremendous crowd," Head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "It was great to see the whiteout. I'm sorry we could not get it done for our fans, but it was a tremendous atmosphere tonight."
Penn State (16-6-3, 6-3-0-0 Big Ten) dropped back-to-back games for the first time all season as Michigan (15-3-4, 6-1-2-1 Big Ten) took sole possession of second place in the Big Ten, dropping the Lions to third. Following an even 2-2 period, Michigan scored three straight in the second period and added two more in the third to run its unbeaten streak to seven.
The two teams played at a frantic pace that featured 99 shots on goal with Penn State holding a 50-49 edge. Not included in the shot counts were two Penn State attempts of the post and another by Michigan that caught iron.
The Wolverines were led by Tyler Motte and Kyle Connor who each had game-high five points on two goals and three assists. Along with linemate JT Compher (1g, 1a), the high-scoring trio combined for 12 points. Motte scored the opening goal by crashing the net with 11:05 remaining for his 19th of the season.
Penn State fired back as Chase Berger (St. Louis, Mo.) scored his 11th of the year and his first in nine games to even the score with 6:11 to go. The play was set up by Varley's drive down the left wing as his initial shot was saved and crept across the crease to a waiting Berger on the right post.
Less than a minute later, Niko Porikos snapped a shot off form the right faceoff circle to regain the lead. Evan Allen won the offensive zone faceoff as Porikos deposited the puck in the left corner of the frame.
The Nittany Lions found some fortune with 64 seconds remaining as Vince Pedrie (Rochester, Minn.) fired on Steve Racine's net with a seemingly harmless attempt. Ultimately, Racine scooped the puck up, bobbled it and it trickled across the line for a game-tying goal, Pedrie's sixth of the season.
The second period largely belonged to Michigan despite Penn State owning a 20-19 advantage in shots. The Wolverines jumped on the Nittany Lions early with Motte setting up Connor's 19th goal of the year on the breakaway with 16:14 to go.
Seven minutes later, Connor led the charge during a 3-on-2 break, flowing down the right wing and tossing a perfect feed to a rushing Compher in front for his eighth of the season and a 4-2 lead.
The Wolverines made it three straight as Connor knocked home a bouncing puck on the right post after an initial Motte shot was saved by Matthew Skoff (McKees Rocks, Pa.). Despite giving up seven goals, Skoff finished with 41 saves in 49-plus minutes of action, just two saves shy of his season high (43, Nov. 13, 2015 vs. Sacred Heart).
Penn State looked to jump start its comeback as Varley played an excellent breakout pass from his goal line to Matt Mendelson (Pittsburgh, Pa.) rushing into the Michigan zone. Mendelson left the puck in the slot for Tommy Olczyk (Long Grove, Ill.) who scored his eighth of the year in the top left corner with 4:12 remaining in the period.
Penn State's comeback effort was thwarted early on by a series of minor penalties that gave the Wolverines four-straight minutes of a man-advantage. With only seconds to kill off of a holding minor just 4:20 into the period, PSU took a pair of penalties to set up a 5-on-3 power play for the Wolverines.
The Nittany Lions won a crucial faceoff 45 seconds into the 5-on-3 penalty kill, but the clearance ricocheted off a linesman and stayed in the zone allowing Michigan to press forward. Eventually, Alex Kile scored his eighth of the year from Connor and Zach Werenski for a 6-3 advantage with 12:27 remaining.
Less than two minutes later, Motte scooped up a turnover in the neutral zone and went in to score his second of the game and cap his five-point night and give Michigan a 7-4 lead, leaving Skoff to give way to Chris Funkey (Orland Park, Ill.) for his second collegiate appearance. Funkey stopped one shot in 10:45 of action as the Nittany Lions held the talented Wolverines at bay.
Two minutes after the Motte tally, Luke Juha (Mississauga, Ontario) sent a one-timer off the post and in to give live to the spirited white-clad crowd. Kevin Kerr (Bensalem, Pa.) delivered the point-to-point pass for his ninth helper of the year and a 10-point season.
Despite Penn State's added pressure, the Nittany Lions could scrape no closer. Michigan ended the third with a 17-15 advantage in shots. The Wolverines were 1-for-5 on the power play, while Penn State went 0-for-3.
Penn State's three-game winning streak against the Wolverines at Pegula Ice Arena came to a close. The Nittany Lions fell to 11-4-1 at home this year and 5-2-0-0 in conference at home.
Penn State continues to lead the series, 6-4-0, over the Wolverines.
The Nittany Lion power play failed to score on the power play for the sixth time in the past seven games. Penn State is 3-for-31 since Dec. 28.
Penn State scored at least four goals in a game for the 16th time this season. The Nittany Lions are 4-3-0 when scoring four goals. Michigan registered at least five goals in a game for the 14th time.
Eric Scheid's assist on Juha's goal extended his point streak to four games.
Connor Varley matched his career high with two assists on Thursday night, done twice previously. It was Varley's sixth multi-point game of his career and first of the season. His last such game on a two-assist night on Feb. 6, 2015 vs. Wisconsin.
Penn State played in front of its 49th sellout in 52 regular-season games at Pegula Ice Arena. The Nittany Lions have played in front of 29 straight home sellouts.
NEXT TIME OUT
Penn State and Michigan take the series finale to "The World's Most Famous Arena" for the inaugural Big Ten Super Saturday Hoops and Hockey doubleheader on Saturday. The two schools meet in men's basketball at Noon, while the hockey teams square off at 7 p.m. Both games will be televised by Big Ten Network and BTN2Go with streaming audio through GoPSUnow via the Penn State Sports Network.