Princeton’s high-flying offense provided Penn State with its toughest test of the season so far.
But nothing seems like too much of a challenge for the Nittany Lions right now.
Penn State jumped out to a quick start, scoring twice in the first 4:02 and held on from there to defeat the 13th-ranked Tigers 4-2.
With the win, the blue and white are now 5-0, which ranks as the best start to a season in the program’s short history.
Even though Penn State failed to outshoot Princeton, the Nittany Lions dominated in the face-off circle with an impressive 46-21 performance. Ludvig Larsson, the nation’s leader in face-off percentage, led the way going 20-of-23, while captain Chase Berger turned in a 11-of-15 effort.
And while the Tigers boasted two stars of their own in Max Veronneau and Ryan Kuffer, the Nittany Lions’ starpower showed up early.
Denis Smirnov snagged his first goal of the year in grand fashion just 1:46 into the contest. After Alex Stevens played the Russian forward through on goal with a beautiful pass from his defensive zone, Smirnov made no mistake with a tidy backhand finish to put his team up 1-0.
From there, Alex Limoges deflected a point shot from Cole Hults into the back of the net to make it 2-0 2:16 later, but things didn’t come nearly as easily to the Nittany Lions over the rest of the contest.
After Penn State held an early 9-1 shot advantage, Princeton started to find its groove near the midpoint of the first and finished with a 16-15 lead in shots after 20 minutes.
The Tigers finally capitalized 2:37 into the second on a blast from the blue-line by Matthew Thom that goaltender Peyton Jones didn’t see, but whenever they appeared to have an answer, the Nittany Lions had an immediate response.
Princeton gifted the hosts a goal 3:03 later, as Brandon Biro pounced on a turnover and caught goaltender Ryan Ferland out of position to restore Penn State’s lead to two.
Circumstances repeated themselves again in the third, as a slap-shot from the right dot fired on net by Larsson canceled out a Tigers’ power-play goal just 2:17 earlier.
Outside of the goal in the second period, Jones enjoyed a solid performance in his third start of the year, making 31 saves.