JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – No. 15 Penn State took down No. 9 Denver 15-12 at EverBank Field in the Moe’s Southwest Grill Classic on Sunday. Shane Sturgis and Jack Forster each recorded four goals in the Penn State (2-0) victory. Denver fell to 1-1 on the season.
“[The win] is huge. It is the second game of the year and [we beat] a top-10 opponent in Denver, who has been deep in the tournament before,” Forster said. “We’re taking the next step here at Penn State. We have Notre Dame next and we go back to work tomorrow. Notre Dame is No. 3 in the country and we need to keep rolling from here.”
Fueled by a 7-3 surge in the third period, Penn State extended a two-goal halftime margin into a six-goal lead after three periods. TJ Sanders added three goals and Kyle Zittel posted his first multi-goal game of his career to help pace the Nittany Lion offense. Austin Kaut had a sluggish start, but made some key saves down the stretch and finished with 10 stops to improve to 2-0 this season.
“[The seniors] taught me a lot and they didn’t make it easy for me as a freshman,” Sanders said. “I don’t feel like a freshman anymore, it’s been a great transition and it was fun to play here in Jacksonville.”
Forster scored just 47 seconds into the game. DU’s Eric Law tied it up a minute later, but Sturgis put PSU ahead 2-1 with 11:40 left in the first period. Sturgis curled around the goal on the left wing and fired a shot above the DU keeper’s shoulder on a tight-angled shot.
Denver’s Cameron Flint made it 2-2 with 10:39 to go, but Michael Richards darted through the Denver defense, recording his second career goal for a 3-2 lead with 10:20 left.
Senior Danny Henneghan won the next faceoff, leading to a Sanders goal on a feed from Tom LaCrosse for a 4-2 advantage. Henneghan finished the day winning 15 of 26 faceoffs and picked up six ground balls from midfield.
After a DU goal, Penn State rattled off the next two goals spanning the first and second period from Sturgis and Forster for a 6-3 lead. Denver got one back with 6:01 remaining in the second period, but Zittel made it 7-4 with 4:08 remaining. Law recorded his second of the game with 3:33 to go and the teams went into the locker rooms at 7-5 in favor of PSU.
Penn State came out on fire in the second half, scoring three of the first four and six of the first eight goals in the period. Sturgis and Forster each scored a pair of goals before Sanders added two and LaCrosse added one of his own. The second Sanders goal extended Penn State’s lead to 14-8 entering the fourth quarter.
Denver pursued the comeback, outscoring PSU 4-1 in the period. Zittel recorded a goal from Kyle VanThof with 10:08 left in the period, but the Nittany Lions went scoreless the rest of the way.
Two Nittany Lions, Nick Dolik and Sammy Davis, each recorded assists on Sunday.
Penn State played a clean game with the ball, committing just seven turnovers and cleared a perfect 13 attempts. Penn State controlled the pace of play, outshooting Denver 42-28, forcing Denver goalie Ryan LaPlante to make 12 saves. PSU won the ground ball war 27-23.
The Nittany Lions were 0-for-2 in man-up opportunities, while Denver went 1-for-4. PSU improved to 2-3 all-time against the Pioneers.