Penn State was shut out for the first time this season and the first time at home in their two Division I seasons Thursday night, losing 4-0 to the first nationally ranked team they’ve played this year in the UMass Lowell River Hawks – ranked 13th by USA Today and 16th by USCHO – in Pegula. Matt Skoff got the start in goal for the Nittany Lions in the midweek matchup and recorded his second loss in net this year.
U-Mass Lowell tallied an early strike to put the Nittany Lions down 1-0 within the first two minutes. Both Penn State defenders Peter Sweetland and Nate Jensen were behind the goal line where River Hawk Stephen Buco passed to teammate Adam Chapie, who was all alone in the slot in front of Skoff, and fired a quick shot past the Penn State goaltender. Even in the first, UMass Lowell’s speed was extremely apparent, as was their physical play, getting into the Nittany Lion’s offensive zone quickly and standing up Penn State forwards as they tried to enter the offensive zone. There were a few scuffles behind UMass Lowell goalie Conor Hellebuyck after a few whistles, one which resulted in a River Hawk power play with 11:24 to go in the period after Zach Saar took two minor penalties, one for roughing after the whistle and one for slashing, and one was offset by a River Hawk roughing after the whistle penalty. Nothing came of the penalty, or Penn State’s two extra-man chances later in the period, though they were able to get more high quality shots on Hellebuyck as the period went on.
The scales tipped back in the River Hawks favor as they doubled their lead 5:56 into the second period after Skoff stopped and covered the original shot but no whistle was blown and UMass Lowell’s Scott Wilson poked it from under Skoff and in to take the 2-0 lead. Two minutes later, River Hawk Derek Arnold took a Skoff rebound backhanded and lifted it high glove side on the Penn State goalie to increase their lead to 3-0. Penn State got their best chance of the period at 10:18 when Nate Jensen rung one off the inside of the post that beat Hellebuyck but was somehow able to stay out of the net. Despite being down three goals, Penn State took the lead in shots after two periods, outshooting the River Hawks by two, 24-22.
While Penn State was able to keep UMass Lowell to 6 shots in the third, the team could not convert on any of their 13 chances in the period. The River Hawks; however, were able to convert one of theirs with less than two minutes left in the game. Derek Arnold got his second of the game at 18:02, beating Skoff off a rebound that was kicked around in front that eventually found the back of the cage for the team’s fourth tally to make it 4-0, effectively icing the win for UMass Lowell.
Through 60 minutes of play, Penn State was not able to net any chances past UMass Lowell goalie Hellebuyck despite having the lead in shots through two of three periods. Hellebuyck saved all 37 Penn State shots, while Skoff saved 24 of 28 for the Nittany Lions. Both Coach Gadowsky and the players were frustrated with the loss after the game, as they had their opportunities but were not able to get the second chances and rebounds the River Hawks were able to.
Two Penn State players were also injured during the game, Max Gardiner and Luke Juha. Gardiner took a hit early and wasn’t on the ice for the majority of the game while Juha was injured blocking a shot with 6 seconds left in the contest. Gadowsky had no updates on either player in his press conference after the game, but did say that Gardiner was unlikely for Friday night’s game.
Penn State’s season record drops to 3-4-1 after Thursday night’s loss. The two teams will rematch Friday night at 7 p.m. back in Pegula as the Nittany Lions look to rebound from a tough shutout loss to even the series.