No. 9 Penn State hockey had a chance for redemption tonight — it hosted No. 5 Minnesota, the only team that’s swept it all season. The Nittany Lions proved they can hang with the Gophers in an intense game of back-and-forth, but ultimately fell 6-3.
How It Happened
A lively opening paced a budding Big Ten rivalry. Through the first 10 minutes of play, there was a 5-on-3 opportunity, a game misconduct, and almost three goals. Minnesota struck first — Rem Pitlick got a breakaway goal at 6:20. Brent Gates Jr. got a five-minute major and a game misconduct off a dirty hit from behind, a huge momentum shifter for the Nittany Lions. They had a 5-on-3 opportunity for 40 seconds, and Andrew Sturtz capitalized on some net-front madness to tie things up at 8:50 into the first.
Vince Pedrie almost became the most prolific Penn State defenseman of all time with his 16th career goal, but it was waived off on an extremely questionable goalie interference call. It looked like a Minnesota defenseman pushed Sturtz into the crease, but despite the Roar Zone’s vocal opposition, the call stood.
The second period opened a bit slower and brought us back to even strength after a handful of penalties on both teams. There was a defensive stalemate until Nate Sucese stole the 2-1 lead for Penn State on a blocker-beater out front, off a trademark no-look feed from Denis Smirnov at 5:39 of the second. Minnesota’s Pitlick answered with his second of the game — a glove side equalizer 8:25. Erik Autio and Penn State’s defense made several smart plays to keep the puck away from Peyton Jones, but a Ryan Norman rebound slipped past him with 5:34 left in the second. A Sturtz breakaway chance and a few more right in front of the net fell flat — Minnesota had the 3-2 edge by the end of the period.
A Minnesota shocker from the blue line nearly opened up scoring in the third, but it was overturned because of Justin Kloos’ high stick. Penn State had 14:35 left to tie it up. Back-and-forth gave way four minutes later when a Kris Myllari floater from the point it made it 3-3. Kloos capitalized on a Brett Murray interference penalty to put the Gophers up 4-3 with six minutes left to play. Any chance of a comeback slipped away with 2:33 left in regulation — an ugly Penn State turnover set Taylor Cammarata up for a bar down goal. An empty netter finalized the 6-3 score.
- Most times these teams play each other, they put on a show. Penn State played some of its most intense hockey tonight. This could be the Big Ten rivalry Minnesota fans crave in a few years.
- Penn State played spurts of really smart defense — halfway through the second, Autio finessed his way through a few Minnesota wingers and stole the puck in Penn State’s defensive zone. These seemingly-small moments save games. More consistency with those moments is key.
- Try extra hard to avoid penalties against Minnesota. Obviously Penn State knows this, though, and doesn’t need me to tell it. Still.
- Despite THON across the street and some beautiful weather, the Roar Zone still showed up. That’s pretty cool.
Penn State and Wisconsin are back at Pegula to finish off their regular season meetings tomorrow night. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m.