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Penn State Men’s Hockey Falls 3-1 To No. 5 Minnesota

Penn State men’s hockey (14-16-1, 5-15-1 Big Ten) fell to No. 5 Minnesota (20-11-0, 15-6-0 conf.) 3-1 Friday night in the first game of the final home series at Pegula Ice Arena this season.

It was a gritty and physical game, with both teams playing very well for the majority of it. Each goaltender led the way for their respective teams, which made the game a low-scoring affair.

The Nittany Lions played a Minnesota team without Brock Faber, Matthew Knies, and Ben Meyers, as the three players are currently in the Olympics.

How It Happened

Guy Gadowsky went with Liam Souliere in goal while opting for Adam Pilewicz and Christian Berger in his top defensive pairing amid Chase McLane’s season-ending injury.

Both the Nittany Lions and the Golden Gophers took turns taking shots in the early minutes of the first period. At 6:42 in the opening period, Minnesota scored on a rebound, putting the puck right past Souliere, who left half the net exposed while trying to clear the zone. It was Rhett Pitlick with the goal, who came into the game hot after scoring two goals against Ohio State on February 12.

Despite giving up the early goal, the Nittany Lions weren’t fazed. They continued to play with grit and skill, nearly equalizing the game after a shot that barely hit the pad of Justen Close.

Penn State eventually got that elusive equalizer, though. At 19:01 in the first period, Ryan Kirwan leveled up the game with a laser shot from the lefthand face-off circle, which sent the Roar Zone just a few feet behind the into a frenzy.

Dylan Lugris took a penalty shortly after the goal, and the period ended with Lugris in the sin bin and the game tied at one a piece.

Souliere opened the second period in an impressive way, including a play in which he stopped three very solid Minnesota chances despite being obstructed by players in front of him. After Souliere froze the puck and the face-off took place, he made a terrific glove save and denied the Gophers once more.

The second period was incredibly physical, with there seemingly being hit after hit. Two Gophers needed help leaving the ice after hits, one of which led to a boarding call against Ben Copeland. The two-minute minor was killed though, with Souliere deserving much of the credit.

Souliere then made another terrific save on a Minnesota breakaway. He’d already made 18 saves halfway through the second period and continued to keep a lethal Minnesota offense at bay.

Minnesota took full advantage of a sloppy Penn State turnover. At 15:22 in the second period, Jack Perbix intercepted a pass right behind the face-off circle and proceeded to score on a slap shot. There was not a single Penn Stater anywhere near Perbix, which allowed him to capitalize on an easy opportunity.

Penn State continued to take chance after chance in the third period. Justen Close continued to play very well, though, denying the Nittany Lions every time.

Both teams continued pressuring each other and taking shots. Each team had over 30 toward the end of the game.

Souliere was pulled with slightly over one minute remaining in the game. The Golden Gophers capitalized, making the final score 3-1 in favor of Minnesota.

Takeaways

  • Goaltending on both teams was solid throughout the game. Close posted a .974 save percentage with 37 saves, while Souliere posted a .941 save percentage and 32 saves.
  • Turnover issues were problematic, just like they’ve been all season for Penn State. Two nasty turnovers in particular come to mind — one of which lead to Minnesota’s go-ahead goal in the second period, while another caused a breakaway that was nearly a goal in the third period.
  • It was a physical game that had many blocked shots. Minnesota blocked 19 shots, while Penn State blocked 12, which made for a good defensive matchup.

What’s Next

Penn State will finish the series against Minnesota tomorrow night with puck drop slated for 6 p.m.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a freshman majoring in journalism. From the Maryland side of the D.C. suburbs, Nolan likes using Old Bay and is a diehard Washington sports fan, which can be both difficult and rewarding. If you want to debate anything about sports with him, follow him on Instagram @_nolanwick or on Twitter @nolan_wick.

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