DETROIT — Coming off a weekend sweep by Michigan, Penn State responded.
In a 4-1 victory over the Wolverines on Thursday, the Nittany Lions looked like a team that is trying to move on not just at the Big Ten tournament but toward the NCAA tournament.
As captain David Goodwin put it: “Last weekend we had a rough weekend against them, but I think everyone was just really excited to play them on neutral ice. And everyone kind of had more of a killer instinct tonight, and we’re just thankful we came out with the result that we got.”
Penn State got the scoring started with a power-play goal at 11:50 of the first period. Just before a penalty was going to expire, Brandon Biro made a behind-the-back pass from behind the net to Liam Folkes, who buried it behind Michigan goalie Zach Nagelvoort.
“You knew it would be a hard-fought game,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We just played Penn State two games at Yost last weekend. And I thought the team that got the best start tonight was going to have the advantage, and obviously they took advantage. They scored I think with six seconds left in that penalty, and then scored a late goal, last-minute goal in the first period, and we just couldn’t answer the bell.”
Penn State added to the lead at 13:24 after a blocked shot led to a breakout into the Michigan zone. Denis Smirnov sent a nice saucer pass to Nate Sucese, who buried a one-timer past Nagelvoort, who stood little chance.
The Nittany Lions put the game away at the end of the first and beginning of the second period. Goodwin made it 3-0 at 19:31, taking a pass from Alec Marsh and beating Nagelvoort stick side.
At the beginning of the second period, they added the back-breaker, off a won faceoff by Sucese to Vince Pedrie, who took a shot that fluttered a bit and might have fooled Nagelvoort. The goaltender got his glove on it but just couldn’t get enough.
“That was definitely the start we wanted,” Goodwin said. “We felt we took the pedal off the metal a little bit in the second, but after a good first period it put us in a good spot to be successful throughout the game.”
Michigan thought it had a goal by Alex Kile but it was reviewed and the play was called offside.
The Wolverines finally got on the board at 10:19 as James Sanchez batted the puck out of mid air and behind Penn State goalie Peyton Jones.
That was all that Jones allowed. He stopped 30 out of the 31 pucks that came his way. He was quick to give his teammates most of the credit.
“It’s them doing a good job, allowing me to see the puck,” Jones said.
On the other side, Berenson gave Jones more of the credit.
“Their goalie was good when he had to be, and give Penn State credit, they played hard the whole game and they played the right way,” he said. “We just weren’t good enough.”
Penn State moved on to Friday’s semifinals, where they will play a Minnesota team that swept the Nittany Lions in the regular season series.
“The most recent experiences were at our home rink, and we certainly — we didn’t match up well against them at Minnesota,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “We didn’t play our best. They played very well, and it wasn’t close. I’d like to think we learned something from that.”