Finishing is still a problem for the Penn State men's ice hockey team.
It isn't that the Nittany Lions aren't getting their shots; it's that they are playing in one of the top leagues in college hockey. They've outshot their opponents in six of their past seven games but have lost all seven. Those opponents included the Nos. 1, 2 and 10 teams in the nation.
It was no different Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena, as Penn State outshot 10th-ranked Michigan 36-28, but lost, 7-3.
"I thought we were generating a lot of good chances," coach Guy Gadowsky said, "but we just weren't finishing."
The Nittany Lions (4-18-1, 0-9-0-0) generated some early opportunities, as forward Zach Saar had a breakaway chance on Michigan goalie Zach Nagelvoort just three minutes into the first period.
But after the first five minutes, the Wolverines (14-6-3, 6-2-1-1) took control, getting on the board with a goal by JT Compher just over six minutes into the game. Penn State goalie Eamon McAdam left his crease, allowing Compher to get one past him.
Just under four minutes after that goal, Alex Guptill found the back of the net to give the Wolverines a two-goal lead.
The second period featured some of the most interesting hockey the Nittany Lions have played this season. It all started three minutes into the period when Penn State got on the scoreboard with a goal by Casey Bailey. After some commotion in front of the net, Bailey backhanded it past Nagelvoort.
Just a little over a minute later, the Nittany Lions scored again. This time it was Eric Scheid who got the tally after a couple of rebounds off of Nagelvoort. Scheid snuck the puck in between Nagelvoort's left pad and the pipe.
Penn State had a go-ahead goal called off just two minutes later, and within seconds of that ruling, Andrew Copp got the first of his two goals on the night for the Wolverines. A quick wrist shot went right past McAdam.
After Copp's goal, Gadowsky decided to switch goalies, calling on junior PJ Musico. This is the second time that Musico has come into a game in which Gadowsky felt the team needed some extra momentum.
But the Wolverines had other ideas, because about a minute later, Zach Hyman scored the first of his two goals on the night. It was a one-on-one with Musico, and Hyman lifted the wrist shot.
"We hit a turning point, and it was hard to get back from there," Gadowsky said. "You take away that goal, and I am willing to bet the farm that it wouldn't be a 7-3 game."
Wolverines coach Red Berenson said that Michigan's fourth goal was huge because it was not a 7-3 game at ice level and he felt the game could have gone either way. He also said that Nagelvoort had to "hold down the fort" more often than he would have liked.
At the end of the second period, the score was 4-2 in favor of the Wolverines. Michigan scored three times in the third period, including an empty netter. Penn State got one goal in the period from Saar.
Berenson said after the game that the Nittany Lions are better than their record, but the Nittany Lions are still struggling to find that elusive first Big Ten win.
"I think when it comes, we will gain a lot more confidence," Bailey said. "Once we get it, there will be a big weight off our shoulders."
Gadowsky said it's tough to judge how the team is developing because it is playing the best there is night in and night out. Gadowsky said part of the learning process is getting over the mental hump.
"We need to mature to manage momentum and follow through on big turning points," he said.
The two teams will face each other again at 5 p.m. Saturday at Pegula Ice Arena.