HAZLETON, Pa. - A dull first half gave way to a frantic second stanza as Penn State Hazleton willed their way to a 6-4 win over Penn State Schuylkill in a Penn State University Athletic Conference contest on Thursday night at High Acres Field. Hazleton (10-3, 7-2 PSUAC) assured themselves a home playoff game in the PSUAC tournament with the win.
Junior Kyle Venditti (Berwick, Pa.) notched his second hat trick of the season, netting a penalty kick in the first half to go with two goals in the second. Sophomore Steven Principe (Jim Thorpe, Pa.) scored two goals of his own and added an assist for Hazleton.
Schuylkill's Cole Schwalm, who finished with a hat trick of his own, started off the scoring 10 minutes into the first half for a 1-0 lead. Freshman Gabriel Opoku-Akoto (East Stroudsburg, Pa.) was tripped in the penalty area just 12 minutes later, and Venditti knocked in the ensuing penalty kick to tie the score, 1-1. The teams went scoreless for the next 35 minutes before senior Ryan Lieb (Yardley, Pa.) found Principe for a 2-1 advantage.
It took Schwalm only 25 seconds to answer, taking a run down the left side before beating goalkeeper Jimmy Fisher (Glen Allen, Va.) to tie the score again, this time at two apiece. Another Schwalm goal in the 65th minute gave Schuylkill their second lead of the game, one that would last only seven minutes.
Venditti took a crossed lob from Opoku-Akoto and flipped it over the keeper's head in the 72nd minute. Three minutes later Opoku-Akoto scored the first goal of his career off of a corner kick by Principe to give Hazleton their first lead since the 58th minute. Venditti's 12-yard shot in the 80th minute snuck past the keeper before Principe hit a direct kick from just outside the penalty area in the 85th minute to put the game on ice. A late Schuylkill goal by Chris Fink made it 6-4.
Hazleton put 21 of their 41 shots on goal, while Schuylkill managed only 11 shots, eight of which were on goal. A physical contest led to 27 fouls, including 16 by the hosts.
The win guarantees a top-4 seed in the PSUAC playoffs, although final seeding will be determined after all teams have completed their conference schedule. Hazleton could be anywhere between the first and the fourth seed depending on the results of other games. Either way, Hazleton will play at home during the playoffs.
NEXT UP: Hazleton moves out of conference play to travel to the University of Valley Forge next Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. The Nittany Lions will then get at least one week of rest before the conference playoffs begin, and will host a game either Tuesday, Oct. 27 or Thursday, Oct. 29 depending on their seed.