Newark, Del. — Following a 9-2 defeat on Friday night (Nov. 30), the University of Delaware Division 2 men’s hockey team (14-6-0) bounced back with a solid first period against Penn State (10-3-0) on Saturday (Dec. 1). After leading 3-2 with three minutes left in the first, the resurgent Ice Lions used a four-goal run through the next 13 minutes to cement an 8-5 win over the Blue Hens at Fred Rust Arena.
With Stephen Bryson and Ryan Morse out of the lineup due to injury, a lower-body injury sustained by Alec Rankin early in the first period left the Blue Hens without their entire top line for much of the contest. Nonetheless, they held their ground in the first period, with their power-play unit accounting for two of their three early goals, one each from Ryan Lowe and Devin LeBlanc to offset an early pair from Penn State’s first-line left winger Jay Furst.
Tied 2-2 with under four minutes left in the first and up a man with Bobby Freiling out on a hooking minor, Delaware winger Jeremy DeWit carried the puck toward the net from an attacking zone face-off and took aim to give the Hens their only lead of the game. Not a minute later, Lions defenceman Mike Lassik deflected a Jake O’Donnell shot past Delaware goalie Eric Birnberg, and Freiling earned the go-ahead goal for Penn State with 1:23 left in the period, racing a loose puck down to the Delaware crease before putting it away from close range.
After surrendering the lead late in the first, the depleted Blue Hens struggled to regain momentum, giving up two more goals in the second period while outshot 17-6. An Adam Johnson cannon from the high slot and Nico Gricco’s finish of an odd-man rush with Furst extended the Lions’ lead to 6-3 midway through the second period and resulted in an early exit for Birnberg (3-3-0) after 16 saves on 22 shots. Stephen Odgers, who also relieved Chris Demas in the previous night’s defeat, kept the Ice Lions scoreless through the final 9:49 of the second period.
Delaware reduced Penn State’s lead to two goals on two separate occasions in the third period. In the second minute, Shawn Camisa set defenceman Andrew Marciniak up for a top-shelf rocket from the left point, but Julien Hendrickson countered with a net-front redirect at 10:40. A net-front backhand shot from LeBlanc at 18:23 — his second goal of the game — cut the Delaware deficit to 7-5, and Odgers was soon pulled in favour of an extra attacker. The tactic backfired on the Blue Hens, as O’Donnell added to his three assists with an empty-net breakaway goal in the final 21 seconds of the game.
Lions goalie Jack Breen saved 16 of 21 shots faced in his first appearance this season.
The Blue Hens held their annual fundraiser for the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation in conjunction with the game, raising $540 for childhood cancer research and resources for those who suffer from it.
Delaware does not return to action until Jan. 4, when they face Florida Gulf Coast University in the first game of a weekend series near Ft. Myers, Fla.