For as much as the final result — not positive but close — has indicated progress, there have been plenty of evenings where the Lions fail to get out of their own way. Saturday night was one of them.
Penn State surrendered a third-period goal while Jonathan Milley served a major for boarding, which erased a shorthanded tally from Taylor Holstrom and a late Lions' rally, in a 3-2 loss to Boston College at Pegula Ice Arena.
"Penn State has made marked improvement since we saw them in the Christmas tournament," Boston College head coach Jerry York said. The Eagles downed State 8-2 back in December in the final of the Three Rivers Classic.
"They just seemed more cohesive as a team; strong, physical, I was very impressed with them. They are this close to winning a lot of games," he continued. "I thought our goaltender was outstanding."
Penn State (4-15-1) trailed 2-1 entering the third, and arguably dictated the pace early in the period before Milley took a seat after taking a major for boarding at 4:06. It helped shift the tide for the visiting Eagles, who scored 22 seconds into the five-minute advantage on a blast from Kevin Hayes, his second tally of the night.
Holstrom would score two minutes and 30 seconds later, but the Lions wouldn't score again, seeing their best opportunity, a penalty shot from captain Tommy Olczyk, kicked wide by BC netminder Thatcher Demko (33 saves).
"We were very proud of certain aspects of our performance," PSu coach Guy Gadowsky said. "I'm disappointed that we had a one-goal game and we take a major. I'm disappointed in that.
"I don't know how many times we have to learn that lesson," he continued. "When you're fighting hard for the puck and you're battling and you take a penalty, that's one thing. But we've now lost mental focus in very close games twice, and I thought we learned that lesson."
Boston College (18-4-3) opened the scoring when Hayes netted his first of the night 7:40 into the first. But the home side evened things at 1-1 when Eric Scheid won a scramble at the top of Thatcher's crease and pushed home his 10th of the year. It was a goal ultimately cancelled out by Johnny Gaudreau's 22nd score of the year with just fewer than four minutes to play in the second.
For State, it's back to the drawing board as it searches for its first win of 2014 and first in the Big Ten. A pair of skates with Ohio State this coming weekend could be the opportunity the Lions need, but staying out of the box will have to be a priority, especially in the third period. Goaltender Eamon McAdam (27 saves) is seeking his first career victory, as well, and his continued improvement can only aide in accomplishing that goal.
A bounce or two wouldn't hurt, either.
"I think it's always tough when you lose 8-2. We had a little chip on our shoulder tonight, and came out thinking there was no way that was going to happen again," Scheid said. "I thought we played well tonight; we're just a bounce away.
"Their goalie played well, and right now we're looking for one bounce to help turn the tide our way."