Blue White Illustrated

May 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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M A Y 2 0 2 3 51 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M F or much of its relatively short his- tory, the Penn State men's ice hockey team has been known for its offense. The Nittany Lions have been able to put pucks in nets, sometimes at a prodigious rate. They did so again in their NCAA Tour- nament opener against Michigan Tech on March 24 in Allentown, Pa. Having received an at-large berth in the 16-team field, their first appearance at NCAAs since 2018, the Nittany Lions peppered Huskies goalie Blake Pietila with 39 shots and scored on nearly a quarter of them in an 8-0 victory. Michigan Tech coach Joe Shawhan said afterward, "This is the most embarrassed I've ever been after a hockey game, maybe ever." The first-round romp earned Penn State a matchup two nights later against a familiar opponent, Michigan, with the winner advancing to the Frozen Four in Tampa. Sporting a roster full of future NHL players, the second-ranked Wol- verines went into the game as the top- scoring team in college hockey with an average of 4.11 goals per game. Given Michigan's proven scoring prowess and Penn State's history — it had scored 3 or more goals in each of its four regular-season matchups against the Wolverines — the 8,375 fans who poured into PPG Arena on March 26 might have expected to witness a back- and-forth shootout. Instead, they got a goaltending clinic. Michigan won it 2-1 when Mackie Sa- moskevich fired a shot past junior goalie Liam Souliere 52 seconds into overtime. It was the Wolverines' fourth win in five games against Penn State this sea- son, and it denied the Nittany Lions a chance to make program history by reaching the Frozen Four for the first time. And yet, coach Guy Gadowsky was philosophical afterward, reflecting on the journey that his players had made after going into the season with little na- tional buzz. "It's very difficult to get here," Gad- owsky said. "What I'm most grateful for is not what they saw at the end of this game, but what they saw all year, the care that it takes." That they were able to extend the fa- vored Wolverines to overtime was largely because of Souliere's performance. The Brampton, Ontario, native made 41 saves in a game in which Michigan was on the attack for long stretches. The Lions had jumped out in front late in the first period when senior forward Connor MacEachern scored off a re- bound following a shot from the point by junior defenseman Christian Berger. The early lead sent a jolt of energy through the partisan Penn State crowd, but on the ice, Gadowsky felt as though the Nittany Lions lost some of their intensity after MacEachern's goal. "I thought the team played extremely well, and then we scored," he said. "I thought we were at our worst after we scored. And then once [Michigan] scored, we played our game again." The Wolverines evened the score with just under eight minutes to play in the third period on a goal by heralded fresh- man Adam Fantilli. The Nittany Lions regrouped and hit Michigan with a flurry of shots in the final eight minutes, but goalie Erik Portillo made 6 saves during that span, sending the game to overtime where Samoskevich quickly ended it. Penn State finished its season at 22- 16-1 and 10-13-1 in Big Ten play. The Li- OLYMPIC SPORTS Junior goalie Liam Souliere made 41 saves in Penn State's 2-1 loss to Michigan in the NCAA regional final in Allentown. PHOTO BY MARK SELDERS/PENN STATE ATHLETICS Cold Comfort PSU took second-ranked Michigan to the limit but wasn't able to finish off a history-making upset M AT T H E R B | M A T T. H E R B @ O N 3 . C O M

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