A sold-out crowd at the Pegula Ice Arena stood for the last minute of play, and goaltender Matthew Skoff pumped his fist in the air before joining his teammates in celebration of Penn State's 4-0 victory over No. 10 Michigan on Saturday night. It was the Nittany Lions' first Big Ten victory, and they were thrilled to get it.
"We came together as a team today. There was trust in the locker room," said Zach Saar, whose first-period goal got the Lions rolling. "There wasn't a lot of talk and empty promises. It was work, and we trusted the guy next to us to do their job, and we knew we were going to get it done."
Just as Michigan had done in the first game of the two-game series, Penn State scored three goals in the first period, all within 10 minutes of each other. Saar got the Nittany Lions on the board first with a shot through the five-hole that got past Michigan goalie Zach Nagelvoort 5 minutes, 31 seconds into the first period.
"I remember we got possession and I just got an opportunity to hit it," Saar said.
In his second game back in the lineup, David Glen got his third goal of the season at 11:24. Kenny Brooks got the puck from the faceoff and gave it directly to Glen. Glen got off a quick shot that bounced between the pipe and Nagelvoort's right pad into the net.
The Nittany Lions' third goal was by Casey Bailey with 6:43 to go in the first period. Eric Scheid whiffed on a shot attempt, but Bailey was right behind him and was able to get a quick wrist shot past Nagelvoort.
After Bailey's goal, Michigan coach Red Berenson replaced Nagelvoort with sophomore Steve Racine.
"Racine came in and played sharp," Berenson said, "but we didn't give him any support."
Racine allowed only one goal, as Penn State's Ricky DeRosa got a deflection from the blue line with just under four minutes to play in the game. But Michigan (14-7-3, 6-3-1-1 Big Ten) wasn't able to threaten Penn State after falling behind in the first period, in large part because of Skoff's play in goal. Said Berenson, "Their goalie played better than our goalie."
Skoff stopped 32 shots, and while he attributed his success to the defensemen in front of him, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky was quick to praise the sophomore goaltender.
"There were huge saves early that gave us a lot of confidence," he said. "Great goaltending is more about timely goaltending, and that started us off well."
Skoff was happy to be part of an historic victory for the Nittany Lions, who improved to 5-18-1 overall and 1-9-0-0 in league play. "To get the first Big Ten win in the history of Penn State, it was awesome to be a part of," he said. "I was very ecstatic and pumped and just wanted to celebrate with my teammates."
While the final score was decisive, Penn State's victory didn't come easy, as the team lost both Nate Jensen and Luke Juha to injuries during the game. With Jensen and Juha out, the Nittany Lions were forced to play with four defensemen. One of the keys for Penn State was the play of Brooks as both a forward and defenseman.
"I can't tell you how difficult it is to do what he did, and he was fantastic," Gadowsky said. "The whole team did a heck of a job."
Gadowsky said he would not know until next week the severity of the injuries.
Penn State will play host to Michigan State next Friday and Saturday.