PSU hockey returns home ranked and on a roll

UNIVERSITY PARK – Not only is Penn State riding the nation’s third longest unbeaten-streak – 4-0-4 in their last six games – the men’s ice hockey team has jumped back into the Top 20 in the latest USCHO.com poll, sitting at No. 18. The team has been unranked since being swept at Notre Dame the weekend of Nov. 10-11.

Over the weekend, Penn State held onto its unbeaten streak with a shootout victory on Friday night and a shutout win to conclude the series at Ohio State. The Nittany Lions started off strong Friday night as sophomore Kris Myllari scored first at 6:20 of the first period. Ohio State came back to tie the game 1-1 at 18:47 in the first. Freshman Alex Limoges put the Lions back on top five minutes into the second period with an unassisted goal. Junior Kevin Kerr extended the lead with a goal at 14:04 in the second. The Buckeyes came back into the third period ready for a fight, as Dakota Joshua scored less than four minutes in and less than a minute after that, teammate Laczynski tied up the game, 3-3. At 8:33, Ohio State took the 4-3 lead with a goal from Brendon Kearney. Senior Trevor Hamilton brought the game back to a tie with firing a wrist shot through traffic at 12:25. Ohio State's Freddy Gerard pulled his team ahead with a goal at 15:35. It was looking rough for the Nittany Lions but with less than a second remaining in the game junior Andrew Sturtz fired a shot through traffic scoring the tying goal at 0.7 seconds on the clock. Penn State earned an extra point for winning the shootout in which Sturtz earned a goal, now being 2-for-2 this season. Funkey totaled 16 saves in the third period, setting a new career-high for saves in a single period. His 43 total saves is also a career-high.

Saturday afternoon the game started off scoreless in the first period. Penn State struck first early on in the second period. Andrew Sturtz scored his ninth career shorthanded goal and third of the season at 1:22. The Nittany Lions made it 2-0 as sophomore Denis Smirnov, returning from a little over a month's absence with an illness, scored at 6:21 in the second period. Early in the third period, Brandon Biro racked the score up to 3-0 at 4:49. Ohio State didn't have a chance after Sophomore Liam Folkes sealed the deal with a 4-0 score at 15:22, shutting out the Buckeyes.

Sophomore goaltender Peyton Jones, now 8-5-1 this year, earned his first shutout of the season, his third career-wise, with 33 saved shots. He now ties Matthew Skoff (2016) for the Penn State's all-time shutout record. Sturtz now has three short-handed goals this season, leading the nation and is currently riding a four-game point streak. Biro secured his fourth multi-point game this season, the seventh of his career with one goal and one assist. He now has at least one point in five of his last six games. Folkes gained his third multi-point game this season and the fifth of his career with one goal and one assist.

Andrew Sturtz was ranked the second Big Ten Star of the week with 2 goals and 3 points over the weekend. He leads the Lions with 10 goals and 22 points - ranking first and second in the Big Ten. His goal and point totals also rank tied for ninth and third in the entire nation. Freshman defenseman Cole Hults was named to the preliminary roster for the 2018 U.S. National Junior Team, being the first Nittany Lion named to Team USA and invited to the pre-tournament camp. The 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships in Buffalo, N.Y. are set for Dec. 26, 2017 through Jan. 5, 2018. Hults has appeared in all 18 games so far this season and is tied for fifth on the team with a pair of goals and ten assists for 12 points. He also currently ranks fifth in the Big Ten in points by defensemen and second among rookies. He is also tied for third nationally among freshman blue-liners in points.

Penn State (9-7-2) will take on Robert Morris this weekend starting off in Pittsburgh game at PPG Paints Arena Friday night at 7:05 p.m. Saturday’s game will be played at Pegula Ice Arena at 7 p.m. Fans attending Saturday’s game are asked to bring a new or lightly used teddy bear to throw onto the ice during the second intermission for the annual Teddy Bear Toss to benefit THON and other philanthropies.

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