Penn State Men’s Hockey Beats Minnesota 5-3 To Open Big Ten Tournament
Penn State men’s hockey beat Minnesota 5-3 Friday night in game one of the Big Ten quarterfinals at Pegula Ice Arena.
Cole Hults, Nate Sucese, Denis Smirnov, Andrew Sturtz, and Evan Barratt all scored for the Nittany Lions, who need one more victory over Minnesota to advance to the next round.
How It Happened
Due to spring break getting underway for students, the crowd was rather sparse despite it being the first home playoff game in program history.
After nearly nine minutes of scoreless hockey, Casey Mittelstadt’s ninth goal of the season gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead over the Nittany Lions. Hults answered with an absolute snipe to tie things up with 4:21 to go in the first period. Smirnov and Alex Limoges each tallied their 12th assist of the year on the play.
Less than three minutes later, Minnesota’s Darian Romanko was ejected for checking Erik Autio from behind into the boards — a game misconduct penalty. Penn State and the Golden Gophers remained tied, 1-1, heading into the first intermission.
Early in the second period, Sucese made it 2-1 Penn State on a terrific shot past goaltender Mat Robson. Scott Reedy provided the equalizer with 4:47 left in the period, but Smirnov and Sturtz notched goals of their own just 56 seconds apart to help Guy Gadowsky’s squad take a two-goal lead into the locker room.
Penn State captain James Robinson received a game-misconduct ejection for a hit to the head of Minnesota’s Tyler Sheehy with 9:43 to play in the contest. Mittelstadt scored his second goal of the game to cut Penn State’s lead to 4-3, but Barratt’s empty netter closed it out. Sophomore goalie Peyton Jones recorded a game-high 32 saves.
Player of the Game
Denis Smirnov | Sophomore | Left winger
The Moscow, Russia, native finished with a crucial goal and an assist in the win.
The Nittany Lions (17-13-5) return to Pegula Saturday at 7 p.m. with a chance to punch their ticket to the Big Ten semifinals on the line in this best-of-three series.