Penn State’s long-awaited return to Yost Ice Arena was far from a welcome one.
The Nittany Lions extended their losing streak to three as Michigan defended home ice 3-2 Friday night in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines got the scoring started on a Luke Hughes goal less than six minutes into the first period from which they didn’t look back.
After failing to take advantage of a few Michigan miscues, Penn State saw its deficit quickly extend from one to three on a pair of quick Wolverine goals.
Freshman forward Ben Schoen was booked for a five-minute major during which Matty Beniers and Kent Johnson each took advantage.
Holding a 3-0 lead entering the second period, Michigan was kept scoreless in the middle frame as goalie Oskar Autio turned it up a notch.
The Nittany Lions made a last-gasp effort in the final period when Tyler Paquette scored his eighth goal of the year less than two minutes into the third to make it 3-1 in favor of Michigan.
Under three minutes later, Kevin Wall cut Penn State’s deficit in half, bringing the count to 3-2 with under 15 minutes to play.
After killing off a 5-on-3 Michigan power play following consecutive penalties on Ben Copeland and Christian Berger, Penn State pulled Autio with under two minutes to play in an attempt to tie the game up and force overtime.
Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, Michigan goalie Erik Portillo defended his post admirably in the face of adversity to give the Wolverines their third win of the season against Penn State.
Here are a few key takeaways from Penn State’s third straight loss.
Tale of two power-play units
Despite Michigan racking up 21 minutes in the sin bin due to penalties called on the likes of Johnson, Jack Summers and a five-minute major and a game on Noah Moyle, Penn State’s power play was unsuccessful all night long, going 0-for-4.
Conversely, the Wolverines pounced on Schoen’s five-minute major to put the game out of reach.
Though Penn State has done a better job recently of limiting its penalties, Schoen’s proved to be a critical error for the blue and white.
Should the Nittany Lions seek to dig themselves out of their last-place standing in the Big Ten, they’ll also need to be more successful with a one-man advantage.
Despite getting a power-play goal against Notre Dame in Penn State’s second game against the Fighting Irish, that tally is the Nittany Lions’ sole score the blue and white has with an extra attacker over the last seven games.
Penn State has gotten three cracks against Portillo, and each time the Wolverines have emerged victorious on the heels of his excellent performances.
Though he didn’t deliver a shutout, Portillo was strong once again despite giving up two third-period goals. In the prior two encounters between Penn State and Michigan, Portillo had allowed three goals on 71 shots.
While it seems Guy Gadowsky’s group has somewhat figured out the Gothenburg, Sweden, native, it was too little, too late for the blue and white.
Though Penn State can’t seem to get off the schneid and earn its first Big Ten win since beating Wisconsin in early December, Kevin Wall has unsurprisingly been a consistent contributor on offense.
The Nittany Lions’ leading goal scorer not only garnered his 14th score of the season but registered his fourth goal in five games.
After breaking out as a sophomore, Wall has continued his radical upward trajectory in year three with the program.
With second-leading scorer Connor MacEachern out with injury, Wall was the recipient of an even greater burden and didn’t fail.
Outside of Wall, MacEachern and Paquette, though, no Penn Stater has more than five goals on the season.
Still, the extra attention Wall has received after his stellar second season has far from hampered his scoring abilities, as he has instead expanded upon them.
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