In the midst of THON weekend, Penn State hockey ended up on the losing side of one of the best college hockey games in recent history.
Blowing two leads against Minnesota of all teams was obviously brutal. Penn State really only needed one win on the weekend to lock an NCAA tournament spot, and now it’s on the bubble. Yes, this all sucks. Call me a blind optimist, but I refuse to let how fun this game was get lost in the things that sucked about it. Just look:
I’d never heard Pegula louder in three seasons. And look at that cele!
I feel like the more I watch this, the less sense it makes. It brings me to an important point, though — anyone who tells you Penn State hockey isn’t good is wrong. Four of its eight losses have come at the hands of a team capable of this sorcery. Just because Minnesota is this good doesn’t mean Penn State is bad. Minnesota is better than Penn State right now. It’s ok.
Let’s back up for a second. Penn State had a 2-0 lead heading into the third — watching that slip away wasn’t easy. A seamless neutral zone transition…Ryan Lindgren’s eye for Jake Bischoff…the play that put Minnesota on the board with 14:52 left on the clock speaks to the importance of general ice awareness. Two defensemen just seemed to know what had to happen to get the puck in the net. So they acted.
Minnesota’s equalizer came with less than three minutes in regulation. A shift change left the Gophers’ leading scorer Tyler Sheehy alone in the slot, a dangerous position for Penn State that late in the game — even just for a few seconds. You could argue Penn State lost this game when Kloos tied it up right before overtime or, of course, when Rem Pitlick capitalized on his only shot of the game for the sudden death overtime winner, but I disagree. Penn State lost when it left Sheehy alone in the slot with a dwindling clock.
So what does this loss mean? To me, it means the Nittany Lions can hold a 2-0 lead over Minnesota for two periods. It means Smirnov is unsurprisingly good at penalty shots and his celebration should be immortalized via GIF. It means Minnesota is one of, if not the best, team right now — and that Penn State isn’t bad just because it’s not exactly there yet. It means college hockey is fun as hell.