Then, penalties came, as they so often have this winter. Goals followed. Suddenly, a three-goal lead was dwindled to one before the end of the second. By the time the third period was seven minutes old, the edge was completely erased. And by the time it was over, State had lost, victimized with three seconds to play by a wraparound goal from Dutchmen forward Daniel Ciampini to hand the visitors a 5-4 victory.
It marked PSU's second straight home loss to Union, which held of a late rally to win 4-3 at Pegula Saturday.
Get the breakdown from the Lions' final home game in this calendar year below. Penn State is 3-7-1 with a trip to Big Ten foe Wisconsin on deck next weekend.
Play of the Game: The ice had long ago begun to tilt in Union's favor, and if anything exemplified it, Ciampini's seventh goal of the year did. The forward inched past State defenseman David Thompson to grab a loose puck — Ciampini said he played well and Lions' head coach Guy Gadowsky agreed — to set up a dual with State netminder Eamon McAdam. The Dutchman said he'd usually go five-hole in that situation, but instead chose to attempt to wrap it around the goaltender's sprawled legs. It was a wise decision, as he faced no resistance from McAdam, who attempted but failed to poke check it off the forward's stick. It lit the lamp at the 19:57 mark of the third, and State had no time to mount a comeback.
Man Down: It's been a rather simple equation for Penn State when it comes to victory and defeat: the fewer penalties, the better.
It worked in the first period, where Penn State staked out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of power play goals from Zach Saar and Luke Juha. It even capitalized shorthanded, growing its lead to 4-1 thanks to David Glen's first goal of the year after Union's March Vecchione and State's Eric Schied swapped tallies. But it would ultimately be its downfall, as the visitors capitalized on three of five power play opportunities, the latter two ultimately the dagger.
With a three-goal lead in hand, State went to the kill when defenseman Mark Yanis was nailed with a high sticking minor, and the situation blossomed to a five-on-three kill when Kenny Brooks went off 1:20 later for charging. It helped set up the first of two power play goals for Philadelphia Flyers 2012 draft pick Shayne Gostisbehere, the first while State was killing the Brooks penalty, the latter when it was skating a man down after Yanis again went off, this time for interference.
The power play opportunities pulled Union within a goal, and gave it all the momentum it would need to complete the comeback in the third after Matt Hatch evened things by poking a puck five hole past McAdam (38 saves) at the 6:49 mark of the final period.
1. F Daniel Ciampini, Union: It goes without saying: get the game winner, and you get the first star. It was the only point of the night for the winger, who threw a total of five shots on net.
2. F Eric Schied, Penn State: One of the best players on the ice, Schied not only gave State a 3-1 lead with his second period score, but also added a pair of helpers.
3. D Shayne Gostisbehere, Union: Showing why he was an NHL Draft pick, the defenseman registered a whopping 12 shots to go along with his two goals. He also blocked a shot.
Quote of the Night
Gadowsky had plenty to say after this one, but one quote in particular was most telling after he was asked what led to the collapse.
"We have to grow up," Gadowsky said. "Division I hockey, you have a lot very tough individuals and very tough teams. And when you get in the Big Ten, we have to grow up. We have to understand that the type of game we have to play to have success is not an easy game to play.
"It's a very mentally grueling game that we have to play. If we want to have success, the commitment you have to make is phenomenal. If we think we're going to play an easy game, a simple game, a skill game, and match talent, well we're in real big trouble. We haven't grown up and realized what it takes to do that consistently."
• Goalie Alex Sakellaropoul earned the win for Union after entering the game in the second to replace starter Colin Stevens. Stevens was victorious Saturday night but was pulled Sunday after allowing four goals. Sakellaropoul allowed none, making 11 saves.
• Penn State football head coach Bill O'Brien, defensive coordinator John Butler, and strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald all took in Sunday's action.