“It was a tale of two games,” Air Force head coach Frank Serratore said after the Penn State men’s hockey team won 5-1 Saturday night to split a weekend series with the Falcons.
Just 24 hours earlier, Serratore said his team “received an early Christmas present” Friday night by beating the Nittany Lions by the same score, 5-1.
“We got lucky,” Serratore said six times during the postgame press conference. Serratore also drew several laughs from those in the Greenberg Ice Pavilion media room.
Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said the score was disappointing, but he was not disappointed in how the team played overall.
“We had a couple of bad changes and a miscue on controlled breakouts that led them to get goals,” Gadowsky said. “We [also] didn’t get a lot of second chances at the net.”
Penn State stepped out on the ice looking forward the opportunity to avenge Friday’s loss.
After an even battle for much of the first period, freshman forward Casey Bailey put the Lions ahead 1-0 after receiving a pass from sophomore forward Max Gardiner.
“He came in hard and took away the wall,” Gardiner said. “The puck popped out to me and I just drove up the middle and left it for him. He put a nice shot on net and beat the goalie.”
Freshman defenseman Luke Juha scored his first career goal after he launched a blistering slap shot from the left point to put the Lions ahead by two goals.
Gardiner and Bailey also continued to show chemistry in setting up Juha’s goal as each were credited with an assist.
“[Bailey] is a fun guy to play with for sure,” Gardiner said. “He works really hard and he’s got a knack for scoring.”
Bailey was named the third star of the game with the goal and assist while Gardiner notched three assists to be named Saturday’s first star.
Gadowsky said he felt that the team did a much better job of getting in front of the net. The defensemen were also much improved from the night before.
The atmosphere became tense when Casey Kleisinger put the Falcons within a goal of tying the game early in the third period.
However, freshman goalie Matt Skoff held his ground in between the pipes, allowing few rebounds. Skoff’s 31 saves earned him his second win of the season and was named the second star of the game for the effort.
“I definitely felt really good before the game,” Skoff said. “I know we had a tough loss [Friday] night. We deserved a better fate for sure. I think not only myself, but the guys were ready to go.”
The tension was relieved when freshman forward David Glen scored his sixth goal of the season. Glen redirected a shot from freshman defenseman Connor Varley past Air Force goalie Jason Torf to put the Lions up, 3-1.
The Nittany Lions later sealed their sixth victory of the season on two empty-net goals from junior forward Michael McDonough and Varley.
The team will have a week off before facing another tough test. They will travel to Schenectady, N.Y. for two games against Union in two weeks.