Delaware (5-9, 1-4 CAA), which had a three-game win streak snapped, trailed just 4-3 at halftime but the Nittany Lions outscored the Blue Hens 4-2 in the third quarter to take control and move on to the victory. Goals were expected to be hard to come by for the Blue Hens as Penn State entered the game ranked No. 2 nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 7.25 goals per contest.
Penn State, which downed the Hens for the third straight year, improved to 10-3 and remained atop of the CAA standings with a 5-0 mark as it won for the eighth straight game. Jack Forster led PSU with four goals and an assist while Tom LaCrosse, Nick Dolik, and Kyle Zittel each scored twice and Kyle VanThof dished out three assists.
Diachenko, one of eight seniors who were honored in a pre-game ceremony as part of Senior Night, tallied four times to record his eighth career hat trick and fourth of the season. He now leads the squad with 33 goals this season. Connor McRoy (below left) added a goal and an assist for Delaware with Danny Keane and Sean Finegan providing the other goals.
The statistics were evenly matched as Delaware held a slim 41-37 advantage in shots, and Penn State picked up one more groundball and committed one more turnover than Delaware. Each team won 12 faceoffs on the evening.
“Our guys were ready and they played hard,” said Delaware head coach Bob Shillinglaw, whose team played its 900th game in school history. “But this was a tale of two halves. We did some nice things in the first half but in the second half we didn’t clear the ball well, we probably could have gotten some better looks (on shots), and turnovers hurt us. You can’t give second opportunities to a team like Penn State.”
Delaware goalkeeper Conor Peaks recorded nine saves on the night while Austin Kaut, who entered the game ranked in the top five nationally in both save percentage and goals allowed, turned back 12 shots.
The Blue Hens jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on goals by McRoy and Diachenko in the first five minutes, but Penn State fought back to tie the game at 2-2 at the end of the opening quarter. Diachenko gave the Hens a 3-2 lead with his second goal of the game just 49 seconds into the second stanza, but the Nittany Lions took the lead for good on goals by Gavin Ahern and Forster to take a 4-3 lead into the break.
Another Diachenko goal early in third period cut the PSU lead to 5-4, but the Nittany Lions answered with three straight goals in a span of six minutes to take an insurmountable 8-4 lead. The Hens never got closer than three goals the rest of the night as Penn State outscored Delaware 5-2 over the final 15 minutes of action.
Prior to the game, Delaware honored its eight seniors - Diachenko, Finegan, goalkeeper Mike Cobb, defender Billy Durand, defender Connor Fitzgerald, attackman Beau Jones, midfielder Dom Sebastiani, and attackman Eric Smith.
Delaware will close out the season next Friday, Apr. 26, when the Blue Hens travel to Massachusetts for a 7 p.m. faceoff in Amherst, Mass.