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Nashville notebook: Preventing 'snowball' was key for Penn State

The Nittany Lions scored early and had timely responses to prevent any avalanches of goals from UND, which enjoyed strong fan support.

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Penn State forward Clayton Phillips celebrates his second goal in the second period of the Nittany Lions 6-4 win over UND at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday, October 30, 2021. Photo by Russ Hons / UND Athletics.
Russell Hons

NASHVILLE — Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky had a concern when he stepped onto the bench at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night.

"You could feel the fans," he said.

Gadowsky feared an avalanche of goals with UND feeding off the momentum provided by the 14,659 fans at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game.

But Penn State scored the game's first two goals, then answered all four of UND's goals to squash any momentum the Fighting Hawks built en route to a 6-4 Nittany Lions victory.

"Obviously, when you get to pull it out against a great North Dakota team anywhere, but especially in a great venue like this with unbelievable fans and a great atmosphere, it's awesome," Gadowsky said. "You feel like they could get the snowball rolling pretty quickly. You have to give our team a lot of credit to be able to pump the brakes in that snowballing."

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Gadowsky said the game's first two goals were key.

Tyler Gratton scored at 4:02 of the first after UND's Ashton Calder missed the net wide on a rush. Penn State took it the other way on a three-on-one rush.

Defenseman Clayton Phillips added the second goal during a full two-minute five-on-three power play.

"It sort of delayed that snowball coming," Gadowsky said.

Untimely penalties irk Berry

UND coach Brad Berry was not pleased with his team's play Saturday night.

One of the things that irked him the most was untimely penalties.

In the first period, UND's Connor Ford and Mark Senden were called for penalties at the same time, giving Penn State a five-on-three for a full two minutes. The Nittany Lions capitalized with a goal from Phillips.

It marked the second time in eight days that UND has given an opponent a five-on-three power play for a full two minutes. It also marked the third game in a row that UND has given an opponent a five-on-three power play for more than 1:15.

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"How many games have we gone down five-on-three, and not just for a little bit of time?" Berry said. "Taking a second penalty off of an initial penalty, that's a mental thing. That's something that you need to control. You're not going to win many games giving teams five-on-three for two minutes."

Berry also was unhappy with Riese Gaber's tripping penalty in the second period. Gaber, UND's leading scorer, had a goal and two assists against the Nittany Lions, but he also took a penalty for the sixth time in seven games this season. That one resulted in a Connor MacEachern power-play goal.

"I thought the first eight minutes of the second period, we were going," Berry said. "We were moving. Every line was moving. And then we take a penalty in the offensive zone. We take a penalty in the offensive zone 200 feet away from our net. And guess what? They score on the power play. Momentum. Those things you can't do. We can control that. We have to be better. We have to be sharper in those details in order to win games against good teams."

Penn State went 3-for-5 on the power play against UND.

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Penn State players celebrate Connor MacEachern's power-play goal in the second period. Photo by Russ Hons / UND athletics
Russell Hons

Penn State players enjoy experience

Although Penn State fans were severely outnumbered, Nittany Lion players were grateful to be a part of the destination game experience.

"It was an incredible environment," said Phillips, who scored two goals. "Even though the fans weren't cheering for us, it makes the game more fun."

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This was Phillips' second time being a part of a UND destination game. He played for Minnesota in 2018, when the Gophers met UND in Las Vegas.

"I'm not sure exactly what the seating capacity was back in Vegas," Phillips said. "But this felt double that."

Did Phillips' experience in Vegas help him in Nashville?

"I think a little bit, yes and no," Phillips said. "I was talking to the guys throughout the week about what to expect, but the way I view it, it's just one of those experiences you just have to go through it yourself."

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Ethan Frisch celebrates his second-period goal with UND fans in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. Photo by Russ Hons / UND athletics
Russell Hons

UND-BU rule works out for Fighting Hawks

NCAA hockey made a rules change after the 2017 NCAA regional, where UND had a potential game-winning overtime goal disallowed against Boston University.

Back then, UND's apparent goal by Dixon Bowen was wiped out after a lengthy review, because officials determined UND was offside about 30 seconds before the goal was scored.

That prompted a rules change.

While offside reviews are still in play, it is nullified if the defending team gets possession of the puck at any point.

Jake Schmaltz's end-of-the-second-period goal was challenged by Gadowsky for offisde. On the review, it appeared that UND was slightly offside on the play. However, because a Penn State defender possessed the puck and made a play in the defensive zone after that, the goal counted.

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Jake Schmaltz celebrates his second-period goal Saturday night in Bridgestone Arena. Photo by Russ Hons / UND athletics
Russell Hons

Nashville becomes UND's highest-attended destination game

Nashville is now UND's highest-attended destination game.

The crowd of 14,659 was a couple thousand under the capacity of 17,159, but it was enough to eclipse the previous destination-game record.

UND and Omaha drew 13,650 at T.D. Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series, in February 2013. UND and Boston College drew 11,348 in Madison Square Garden in 2016.

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UND hockey players stand on the blue line before Saturday night's game in Bridgestone Arena. Photo by Russ Hons / UND athletics
Russell Hons

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Penn State goaltender Oskar Autio leaps in celebration at the final buzzer of the Nittany Lions 6-4 win over UND hockey at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday, October 30, 2021. Photo via Russ Hons / UND Athletics.
Russell Hons

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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