ALLENTOWN — Right from the opening puck drop, Denver wasn’t having any part of any Penn State “revenge” game.
Unlike the last year, Penn State was rested and had a crowd of loud fans wearing blue and white behind them. But it didn’t matter –– Denver, the defending national champion, was simply the better team.
The second-seeded Pioneers controlled the pace of the game from the opening period, rolling to a 5-1 victory on Saturday night and eliminating the Nittany Lions from the NCAA hockey tournament for the second straight season.
“We got beat bad,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I don’t think we did what we do well enough. We knew what to expect and prepared for what they did, but what lacked was a better commitment and execution of what makes us good.”
Denver got on the board first, 12:19 into the opening period off the stick of freshman Kohen Olischefski, who took advantage of a favorable bounce and put the puck past Peyton Jones.
After Penn State failed to tie things on its first power play of the game, Denver’s Troy Terry, who played with Team USA at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, last month, gave his team a 2-0 advantage with a little over three minutes remaining in the first period.
Denver took advantage of a breakaway a little less than five minutes into the second period and talented forward Henrik Borgstrom, a Florida Panthers draft pick, put home his team-leading 23rd goal of the season.
Penn State’s intensity began to pick up in the second half of the period, but Denver converted on a late power-play opportunity and took a 4-0 lead into the second intermission after a redirection goal by Jarid Lukosevicius at 19:58 of the period.
Penn State was able to remove the goose egg on the scoreboard, thanks to an unassisted goal by Liam Folkes at 7:39 of the third, but Lukosevicius scored his second goal of the night with 7:38 left in the period to make sure the momentum stayed squarely on Denver’s side.
The Nittany Lions like to play at a high pace and take a lot of shots. But Denver was able to limit them to just 27 shots, their lowest total since October.
“It’s tough to shoot when you’re playing defense in your own end,” Gadowsky said. “I thought that we had opportunities to get to net, but we just missed the net a lot.”
Saturday’s loss was the last game for several Nittany Lions who made a big impact in the program’s rapid rise, including captain James Robinson.
“That’s obviously a disappointing last game to have in the blue and white,” he said. “Every guy in that dressing room has made this program better than it was at the start of the season. We can’t wait to see where this program goes in the future.”
Denver advances to play the top seed in the Midwest Region, Ohio State, Sunday at 6:30 p.m., with a spot in the Frozen Four on the line. The Buckeyes took down Princeton earlier in the day, 4-2, thanks in part to a goal and assist from Flyers draft pick Tanner Laczynski.