SAINT PAUL, Minn. - Freshman forward Zach Saar's (Richland, Mich.) goal in double-overtime sent the sixth-seeded Nittany Lion men's hockey team to the Big Ten Semifinals in a 2-1 win over third-seeded and 12th-ranked Michigan Thursday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center.
The victory advances Penn State (8-25-2) to the Big Ten Semifinals against second-seeded Wisconsin on Friday at 3 p.m. ET. Michigan (18-13-4) will await its NCAA fate until Sunday.
After 92 minutes and 47 seconds of hockey, Saar turned a Dylan Richard (Sherwood Park, Alta.) faceoff win into a historic goal, rifling Penn State's 65th shot of the game past Zach Nagelvoort for PSU's third win over Michigan in five tries. For Saar it was his fifth goal of the season and couldn't have come at a better time, ending the longest game in Penn State men's hockey history.
Saar's game-winning goal became possible thanks to a great goaltending performance by Matthew Skoff (McKees Rocks, Pa.) who saved a career-high 52 shots. Skoff was never more important than in the first overtime period with 15 saves and holding the desperate Wolverines scoreless for the final 41:41 of the game.
The most memorable moment of the first overtime came with 7:30 remaining as Michigan peppered the PSU net and a spinning puck on the goal line was kicked out by Eric Scheid (Blaine, Minn.). The play came under review and was confirmed as Michigan owned a 15-13 advantage in shots for the extra set of 20 minutes. That play would allow Saar's heroics and send the Nittany Lions through to Friday's semifinal.
Penn State came out firing with 13 first-period shots and several quality scoring opportunities. David Goodwin (Des Peres, Mo.) led the offensive shot tally with three of his own as the Nittany Lions came up empty on its lone power play. Defensively, Skoff made 11 saves and the Nittany Lions killed off two Michigan power plays.
Penn State's offensive pressure continued into the second period with a pair of great chances from Casey Bailey (Anchorage, Alaska) in the first five minutes and Tommy Olczyk (Long Grove, Ill.) on a short-handed breakaway, but Nagelvoort denied them both. Nagelvoort made a career-high 63 saves as the Nittany Lions' 65 shots were the most in a single-game for the program.
Nevertheless, a Michigan turnover forced by Goodwin allowed Luke Juha (Missassaugua, Ont.) to slide a long pass to a streaking Holstrom, who went in all alone and beat Nagelvoort for the 1-0 lead with 22.8 seconds remaining in the frame. The goal was Holstrom's eighth of the year, while Juha and Goodwin each their 11th assists of the season.
Penn State's unrelenting attack fired the first eight shots of the third period and looked to double the lead on multiple occasions during a power play midway through the frame. Michigan's Phil Di Giusseppe would find the back of the net on Michigan's first shot of the period to tie the score on a pass from Cristoval Nieves with 8:54 to go.
Much of the overtime session was controlled by the Wolverines as JT Compher nearly ended the game just 39 seconds into the extra session as Skoff made a post-to-post pad save. The Nittany Lions had their flurry of chances with 12 minutes remaining as Goodwin was denied on a backdoor pass by Nagelvoort.
Penn State and Michigan combined to 118 shots, 115 saves and 44 blocked shots. Patrick Koudys (Smithville, Ont.) and David Thompson (Glen Mills, Pa.) each blocked four shots apiece. Total game time was 3 hours, 35 minutes.
Penn State, who defeated Ohio State 4-2 to end the regular season, won back-to-back games for the second time this season and the first time since Nov. 8 when the Lions defeated Robert Morris and Sacred Heart.