North Andover, MA- Guy Gadowski’s Penn State Nittany Lions own the identity of an offensive circus. They’ve been at or near the top of the goals per game and shots per game stats for three seasons and show no signs of relenting, entering Thanksgiving with the second-highest goals per game, most total goals and most total shots. They took their traveling goal show east for the inaugural Turkey Leg Challenge. On Friday night, Penn State enjoyed a Black Friday feast, carving the Merrimack Warriors at Lawler Arena.
Liam Folkes led the charge. The senior from Scarborough, Ontario, frequently overshadowed by his linemates, potted the first three goals of the game for a natural hat trick, the first of his collegiate career in his 117th career game. First, he unleashed a wrister in the slot midway through the first. Then he redirected a puck on a funky bounce through Warrior Freshman goaltender Troy Kobryn. In the second period, Folkes capped his natural hat trick by capping a sequence of picture-perfect passes at the head of the crease. “I’m genuinely surprised that’s his first career hat trick!” exclaimed Gadowski after the game. “He’s been great for our program.”
The Penn State offense did not let up. Kyle Myllari and Evan Barrett scored within a minute of each other late in the second. Barret’s was a flukey floater over Kobryn’s head and Myllari’s was a point shot for his first goal of the season.
Merrimack Head Coach Scott Borek swapped goalies to begin the third. Troy Kobryn, who stopped 23 of 28 shots, sat for Finnish Freshman Jere Huhtamaa. “We didn’t pull Troy because of Troy,” explained Borek. “We felt like he was being left out there to dry and I wasn’t gonna leave him out there.”
The Nittany Lions tacked on two more goals in the third. Denis Smirnov went bar down early in the third and Alex Stevens potted the extra point on a power play following a Ben Brar major penalty to conclude the scoring at 7-0.
Penn State outshot Merrimack 39-15. Huhtamaa stopped 9 of the 11 shots he faced.
“I don’t normally do this, but I told the team to burn that tape,” said Borek. “We’re not gonna learn anything about our team from that game.”
Merrimack falls to 2-9-2. The Warriors conclude the Turkey Leg Challenge at home on Saturday against the RPI Engineers. Puck drops at 7 pm at Lawler Arena.
Penn State improves to 11-3-0 with the win in their first game against a Hockey East opponent in four seasons.
Oskar Autio stopped all 16 Merrimack shots for his first career shutout. “It’s deserved,” said Gudowsky. “We played much better in front of him in this game than his last start.”
PSU goes for the Turkey Leg Challenge Trophy against UMass Lowell on Saturday night. Puck drops at the Tsongas Center at 6 pm ET.