No. 15 Penn State Hockey downs No. 5 Minnesota 4-3 in the Big Ten Semifinals

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No. 15 Penn State (23-11-2) took on No. 5 Minnesota (23-11-3) in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament and the fifth time these teams have met this season did not disappoint. This well-played, hard-fought game couldn’t be decided in regulation and was eventually settled in double overtime as Penn State walked away victorious.

How It Happened

Penn State needed a fast start to have chance to win this game, and that’s exactly what it got. The Nittany Lions struck first, as Nikita Pavlychev snuck a rebound past Minnesota goalie Eric Schierhorn at the 1:05 mark of the first period. Penn State continued to be aggressive and was able to pepper Schierhorn with several quality shots. However, Minnesota countered Penn State’s momentum at the 7:20 mark, as a Rem Pitlick received a pass from behind the net and one-timed a snipe over the shoulder of Nittany Lion goalie Peyton Jones. Nittany Lion forward Chase Berger was sent to the penalty box for delay of game and gave the golden gophers a power play opportunity. Minnesota capitalized and took a 2-1 lead after Justin Kloos unloaded a bomb from the point at the 9:55 mark. Penn State was awarded two power plays near the end of the period and nearly evened things up when Nate Sucese rang a shot off of the goalpost. At the end of the first period Minnesota led 2-1 with Penn State holding a 11-6 shot advantage.

Penn State went on the power play for a third time early in the second period but again failed to punch one in. The Nittany Lions tied the game at 2-2 at the 3:38 mark after a great shift from the Berger-Sturtz-Marsh line. Strutz beat several defenders with a tremendous individual effort and fired the puck on net. Berger took the rebound around the net and backhanded a shot that deflected off of Alec Marsh and beat Sheirhorn near side. Midway through the period there was a stretch of 4-on-4 play that featured several end to end chances for both teams. At the end of the second, the score was tied 2-2 with Penn State holding a 27-15 shot advantage.

Penn State finally converted on a power play opportunity and took a 3-2 lead just a minute into the third period. Dylan Richard tapped one into an open net after receiving a nifty pass courtesy of Sturtz. Minnesota quickly tied the game after Jack Sadek a rocket pass Jones from the point. I didn’t even have time to blink before the puck was in the back of the net. Penn State was the aggressor in the latter part of the period, as they created numerous odd-man scoring chances. No one could break the deadlock and the score remained tied 3-3 at the end of regulation.

The entire crowd, what very little of it there was, was on pins and needles for every single shot in overtime. Jones came up huge with monster save after monster save, while Penn State added to its shot count at the other end. Neither team could tally before the end of the first overtime and the score remained tied at three.

Penn State eventually scored with 6:27 remaining in the second overtime, as Erik Autio slotted one home off of a pass from Denis Smirnov. Final score was 4-3 with shots totals at 62-40 in favor of Penn State.

Takeaways

  • Let’s go.
  • Neither team deserved to lose this game. Start to finish both of these teams played phenomenal and it’s a shame that there was only a few people in attendance to witness it.
  • Rem Pitlick has no chill. He’s been a nightmare matchup for Penn State all season as he has tallied a total of 10 points against the Nittany Lions this season.
  • Peyton Jones was the player of the game. He played the game of his life and made several key stops when he was called upon to do so. There was a countless amount of opportunities where Penn State was dead to rights and Jones game through in the clutch with an unbelievable save.
  • Andrew Sturtz is 1b for player of the game. He was hustling on every shift and was able to create great scoring opportunities for his line mates. Strutz tallied three assists on the night but his impact was felt way beyond just the points.
  • Penn State advances to its first ever Big Ten tournament final and all but locked up its first appearance in the NCAA tournament.

What’s Next

Penn State will take on Wisconsin tomorrow at 8 p.m. in the Big Ten Championship game at Joe Louis Arena.

Photo By: Chris Sponagle
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Matt Castle

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