New Kensington, Pa. - The Nittany Lions survived several delays and a feisty Penn State New Kensington squad to get back in the win column on Sunday and finish their western road trip with a victory. Hazleton fended off repeated efforts by the home team and pulled ahead in the final 12 minutes with a game winning goal by sophomore Ben Pasukinis.
The opening period saw back and forth play with neither team able to assume command of the game. Senior Kyle Venditti (Berwick, Pa.) powered the Hazleton offense in the first half and put the Lions up early with an unassisted goal, but Hazleton quickly gave up their advantage on a successful penalty kick by New Kensington. Moments later in the half, junior Steven Principe (Jim Thorpe, Pa.) found a slashing Venditti in the opponents box. Venditti chipped the ball off the New Kensington Keeper, then collected his own rebound and deposited the in the net to put Hazleton back on top 2-1. But New Kensington refused to go quietly and midway through the opening half responded to knot the score at 2-2 when a crossing pass beat several Hazleton defenders and was headed into the goal by Nikita Rylow.
With the game now tied a two goals a piece, Venditti went back into action, and broke away from defenders for a one on one chance, besting the New Kensington keeper and registering his third hat-trick of the season with ten minutes to go in the first period. After several minutes of back and forth play, New Kensington found themselves back on the the attack and capitalized on a deflected corner kick to tie the game at 3-3 and cap a turbulent first half.
After a rousing pep talk from Coach Shadle, the Nittany Lions dominated possession of the ball in the second half. Hazleton reeled off numerous shots on goal in the first 15 minutes of play and ultimately reclaimed the lead when Venditti struck a hard corner kick to freshman Jason Klusewitz (Mountain Top, Pa.) on the back post who headed the ball into the wide open net. As the rain began to fall New Kensington found themselves with a free kick outside the Hazleton box. Francesco Di Cocco struck a beautiful ball around the Lions wall, skidding on the wet turf and sneaking into the net to even the score at 4-4 before play ceased due to rain and lightning.
After a nearly 45 minute rain delay, play resumed with just 23 minutes remaining in the game. Once again the Lions controlled the ball and Venditti found open space facing another one on one attempt at a score. the forward chipped the ball over the diving netminder, but an abundance of spin forced the ball just wide of the goal on the bounce. Nevertheless, Hazleton was spurred on by Venditti's attempt and with 12 minutes to play, Venditti play a ball through the New Kensington defenders, finding Pasukinis in the box. The sophomore played the ball around the keeper and knocked the ball towards the goal. Two New Kensington defenders rushed to make the save, but the ball crept past the diving defense and nestled itself in the net for the game winning score.
Hazleton held on for a much needed win and now earns nearly a full week of rest. The Lions next take the field on Saturday, September 24 for a non-conference matchup with Delaware Valley University. Kickoff scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at Community Park in Hazleton, Pa.