Two rapid-fire goals scored just twenty-seven seconds apart inside the last six minutes of regulation play by a third-line right wing propelled the # 19 ranked Alaska – Fairbanks Nanooks to a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the luckless Penn State Nittany Lions in the well-played finale of the 2014 Brice Alaska Goal Rush Tournament.
It was, in fact, the second consecutive time in a row at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks that the Nittany Lions conceded two unanswered goals in the last six minutes of a game and simultaneously surrendered victory in the process. Indeed, if ice hockey games were only 54 minutes long, then Penn State would have joyfully carted off the very first tournament trophy ever won in school history by now having defeated both the Alaska – Anchorage Seawolves and the Alaska – Fairbanks Nanooks back-to-back. But, unfortunately for third-year head coach Guy Gadowsky‘s charges, that is simply not the case.
Penn State can be commended for twice falling behind but quickly responding with with equalizing goals on both occasions. Nittany Lions center Eric Scheid, the 22-year-old redshirt junior from Blaine, Minnesota, who scored six goals for the Alaska – Anchorage Seawolves during the 2011/12 NCAA campaign, did well to react to a rebound in front after Nanooks senior goalie Sean Cahill could not control a big blast from visiting defenseman Connor Varley. The ever-opportunistic Scheid, Penn State’s leading marksman last term with eleven strikes, shot the puck through the five-hole of Cahill, the 24-year-old Canadian legionnaire from Calgary, Alberta, who was making his first appearance for Alaska – Fairbanks this season, and promptly celebrated his second goal of this new 2014/15 NCAA season.
Penn State center Taylor Holstrom (28), the experienced senior from Yorba Linda, California, who had collected two goals and six points in the Nittany Lions’ first three games of this new 2014/15 NCAA season, was conspicuously absent from head coach Guy Gadowsky’s lineup versus the Alaska – Fairbanks Nanooks on Saturday night … Holstrom, who currently counts 19 goals and 40 points in 63 career NCAA games for Penn State, had two assists on Friday but also suffered an upper body injury against the Alaska – Fairbanks Seawolves.
Varley scored his first goal for Penn State in almost 22 full months with another long-range drive that somehow managed to negotiate its way through heavy traffic … previously, the last goal that the 22-year-old homegrown junior from Lansdale had notched on behalf of the Nittany Lions had come against the University of Connecticut Huskies back on January 4th in 2013.
Penn State also did very well to capitalize on a five-minute major penalty and grab the lead a little past the halfway point of the contest when Max Gardiner, the 22-year-old redshirt senior from Deephaven, Minnesota, who was the third round choice (# 74 overall) of the St. Louis Blues at the 2010 National Hockey League Draft, scored on the power play. After finishing as the Nittany Lions’ third-leading scorer with 22 points (three goals) in 27 NCAA games two seasons ago, the former University of Minnesota Golden Gophers right wing went goalless in 22 appearances for Penn State last term. Prior to his strike against the Nanooks on Saturday night, Gardiner’s last collegiate goal had arrived at the expense of the University of Alabama – Hunstville Chargers on February 8th, 2013.
And so it was Alaska – Fairbanks freshman right wing Austin Vieth who became the big hero of the 2014 Brice Alaska Goal Rush by scoring his first two collegiate goals very late in the third period against Penn State in the tournament finale at the Carlson Center. The 20-year-old out of Marinette, Wisconsin, also added an assist on the Nanooks’ first goal of the evening, as well, and ended up walking off with the award for Most Valuable Player of the entire four-game tournament. Some mention must be made, then, of the netminder Cahill, who came up with 40 saves against the Nittany Lions.
October 18, 2014
Carlson Center – Fairbanks, Alaska
Attendance : 3,584
ALASKA / FAIRBANKS 4 – PENN STATE 3
04:53 … UAF – Munson (B. Morley, Vieth)
05:26 … PSU – Scheid (Varley, Robinson)
24:17 … UAF – Huysmans (T. Morley, Perry)
25:25 … PSU – Varley (Loik, Brooks)
32:09 … PSU – Gardiner (Williamson, Juha) – ppg
54:03 … UAF – Vieth (Atkinson, Krieger)
54:30 … UAF – Vieth (T. Morley)
shots-on-goal : PSU 43 (10 + 15 + 18) – UAF 33 (12 + 11 + 10)
penalty minutes : UAF 9 – PSU 4
power plays : PSU 1/4 – UAF 0/2
ALASKA – FAIRBANKS : Cahill – Froese, Parayko ; Atkinson, Kaiser ; Tateson, Campbell – Perry, T. Morley, Huysmans ; Sparrow, Krieger, Basara ; B. Morley, Munson, Vieth ; Erickson, Hochhausen, Youngmun
PENN STATE : Skoff – Koudys, Varley ; Jensen, Juha ; Williamson, Autio – Goodwin, Conway, Bailey ; Richard, Scheid, Robinson ; Loik, Glen, Brooks ; Olczyk, Gardiner, DeRosa
Note — Nanooks defenseman Colton Parayko (2012) and Nittany Lions forward Max Gardiner (2010) are both third round NHL Draft picks of the St. Louis Blues
Penn State Nittany Lions netminder Matthew Skoff was certainly a sympathy selection as far as his place on the All-Tournament Team for the 2014 Brice Alaska Goal Rush is concerned. It’s not that the 22-year-old homegrown junior from McKees Rocks played so poorly, it’s just that a save percentage of .881 and seven goals allowed in two games at the Carlson Center is not so worthy. A much more deserving selection for the goaltender position on the all-star squad would have clearly been Alaska – Anchorage Seawolves shot-stopper Michael Matyas, who foiled all three Penn State attempts in a shootout and posted a fine save percentage of .922 while conceding only four goals during his two games played in Fairbanks.