UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State used timely scoring, strong defense and a complete team effort to upset first-place and 12th-ranked Hofstra 8-7 on Saturday at Penn State Lacrosse Field in front of a facility record 1,682 fans. In what would be the final CAA game in school history, the Nittany Lions took out the regular-season champs to secure a winning regular season.
Penn State (7-6, 3-2 CAA) celebrated the careers of 14 Nittany Lions prior to the contest and twice opened three-goal leads to frustrate Hofstra (10-4, 4-1 CAA). The Pride would never lead in the game as its six-game winning streak was halted in Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions were led by a pair of attackmen, senior Shane Sturgis and freshman Mike Sutton, who accounted for seven of PSU's eight goals. The eighth goal, which would be the deciding goal, would come by way of a Hofstra own goal in the third quarter as the Lions held off a late rally.
Penn State held a 6-4 lead going into the second half and had its advantage cut in half on Korey Hendrickson's first goal of the game only 78 seconds into action. That was where the game took on a wild 10 minutes full of odd goals, penalties and exciting play.
Sutton, whose third goal of the game late in the second quarter, would score his fourth of the day with 12:25 remaining in the quarter to earn a 7-5 PSU lead. The goal was assisted by Pat Manley.
On the ensuing face-off, Hofstra's Kris Clarke won the draw and tossed to Hendrickson. His pass from near midfield would sail over goalkeeper Chris Selva's head and hop into the goal and give the Nittany Lions an 8-5 advantage just 15 seconds after Sutton's fourth goal.
Penn State would go scoreless for the final 27:10 of the game.
Later in the third, a mad scramble in front of Selva's net forced Nick Aponte to take an unnecessary roughness penalty for two minutes. In the ensuing melee, Hofstra's Anthony Zappone retaliated and took his own two-minute penalty and put each team down a man.
The third period resulted in each team scoring twice, although one of those goals for Penn State was scored by Hofstra, as well as 11 turnovers, 14 ground balls and four minutes worth of penalties.
In the fourth, Hendrickson took Sam Llinares' fourth assist of the day and again cut the Nittany Lion lead to one, 8-7, with 12:18 to go. Nevertheless, Penn State's hectic defense forced a pair of Hofstra turnovers and senior Austin Kaut made two of his eight saves to stave off the comeback and earn PSU's fourth win against a ranked opponent this season.
Kaut upped his career total saves to 686, eight off the Penn State record held by fellow Springfield High School graduate and current U.S. National Team member Drew Adams. Kaut had three ground balls, as well.
Sutton opened his four-goal game with a pair of unassisted tallies including a smooth wrap-around effort to give Penn State a 2-0 lead in the game's first 2:04. Hofstra's Mike Malave and Lance Yapor, his goal on the man-up, evened the score at 2 entering the second quarter.
In what would be a deciding 3-0 run by the Nittany Lions, Sturgis registered a natural hat trick in the second quarter. His three goals came in a two-minute span as PSU led 5-2 with 12:25 left in the second.
Sturgis' first goal was assisted by Kyle Baier on a low-to-low shot, before his bouncer was helped by Dan Craig. His third goal, which would become his 33rd of the year and give him 97 for his career, was a low rocket from distance helped by Aponte.
Sturgis moved into fourth all time at Penn State in points as he's now at 158. In goals, he climbed into a tie for seventh with Jim Laverty (1988-91), tallying his 13th career hat trick in the process.
Hofstra tallied back-to-back goals from Torin Varn on the man-up and Drew Coholan to make it a one goal game, 5-4, with 9:49 remaining in the second. Sutton's initial shot four minutes later was saved by Selva and the ensuing ground ball attempt would be pushed into the net by a Hofstra defenseman as PSU held a 6-4 lead at the half.
Penn State held advantages in shots (31-26), ground balls (23-20), clears (14-6, 13-17) and saves (8-6). The Nittany Lions had 16 turnovers to Hofstra's 11 and face-offs were even at nine wins apiece. PSU was 0-for-4 on the man-up while Hofstra was 2-for-2.
Penn State concluded its regular season with three consecutive wins and its third consecutive winning season. The Nittany Lions, while ineligible for the CAA tournament due to conference by-laws, are eligible for the NCAA tournament should they be awarded an at-large bid. The Nittany Lions were 2-2 against NCAA RPI Top 15 teams at the conclusion of Saturday's game.