Guy Gadowsky’s Nittany Lions came oh so close to getting their first win of the season against No. 5 Minnesota Saturday night in Pegula, but the Golden Gophers rallied to a 4-3 overtime win.
How It Happened
Just over three minutes into the first period, freshman center Nate Sucese found linemate Denis Smirnov wide open about five feet away off of the ride side of the goal. Smirnov extended his amazing run of late, slotting the puck into the top left corner to beat Minnesota’s Eric Schierhorn for the 1-0 lead.
Vince Pedrie launched a puck off right post four minutes later, as Penn State continued to dominate Minnesota early in the evening. Nearly halfway through the opening period, Peyton Jones turned away Minnesota’s best opportunity to date — a point-blank tapper that Darian Romanko couldn’t finish.
Moments later, Minnesota’s extra skater Joey Marooney picked up a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for a dirty boarding call that ended with Penn State’s Nikita Pavlychev being slammed into the ice from behind. Near the end of the lengthy power play, a costly Pedrie turnover required Jones’s heroics again and he stuffed the short-handed breakaway opportunity by Gopher star center Justin Kloos.
The second period began with a bang, as senior captain David Goodwin came across the ice to take the puck off of his teammate Pedrie’s stick. He lasered the puck in from just a stick-length away from the goal to give the Nittany Lions a two-goal lead. Trevor Hamilton recorded two huge defensive plays on a penalty kill at around the midway point of the game following a Goodwin hooking whistle, getting a block on a solid Gopher shot and making a play that caused him to flip skates-over-head onto the ice. Despite failing to score again after ending the period with a five-on-three power play opportunity, the Nittany Lions still held the 2-0 lead as they headed back to the locker room for the second intermission.
Jones lost the shutout as senior defenseman Jake Bischoff sliced the lead in half with 15 minutes to play. Both teams had plenty of other chances as they battled on into the waning moments of the match, and Minnesota finally broke through with just over two minutes left in regulation. A high wrister from their leading scorer, Tyler Sheehy, went flying by Jones’s outstretched glove, as the sophomore Gopher’s 18th goal of the season left the score deadlocked 2-2.
Minnesota shot themselves in the foot with a late penalty that saw Smirnov hit the ice right in front of the crease. The delayed whistle left the 5-foot-10 youngster with a penalty shot that he slid through the five hole of Schierhorn with just 1:26 remaining to give Penn State what seemed to be the substantial result that they desperately needed. The Gophers emptied the net and somehow managed to give fans some extra hockey by knotting up the score with just 3.5 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime at 3-3 in dramatic fashion.
Kloos found himself in the slot with the puck about 15 feet from the goal with space, and he was able to fire the biscuit top shelf, leaving most of Pegula stunned and silent. Kloos’s goal marked his 17th career point against the Nittany Lions, and sent the game into an improbable overtime.
About three-and-a-half minutes into OT, Friday’s key player finally decided to show up for the second leg of the two-night series. Freshman Rem Pitlick, who earned his first career hat trick against Penn State in the first game of the series, finished off a weekend to remember as he netted the game-winner on his only shot of the night to complete the comeback for the Gophers.
Player Of The Game
Denis Smirnov | Freshman | Forward
The Moscow native continued his outstanding play, recording his 10th point in the last four games. He’s currently 13th in the nation in points with 39 (16 goals).
The Nittany Lions will make their second to last road trip of the season to East Lansing next weekend to face Michigan State. The puck drops at 7:00 p.m. ET on both Friday and Saturday. Penn State swept the Spartans at Pegula earlier this season.