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Penn State Men’s Hockey Falls 6-4 To No. 5 Minnesota In High-Scoring Defeat

Penn State men’s hockey (14-17-1, 5-16-1 Big Ten) fell 6-4 to No. 5 Minnesota (21-11-0, 16-6-0 Big Ten) in a high-scoring affair at Pegula Ice Arena Saturday night.

Minnesota had some offensive firepower added to its lineup with the return of Ben Meyers and Brock Faber from their Olympic stints. But Matthew Knies, one of the Gopher’s top scorers, did not play following his return from the Olympics.

Four out of five of Penn State’s seniors cracked the starting lineup, but the game saw senior Ben Copeland scratched after a series of costly turnovers in Friday’s game against Minnesota.

How It Happened

On the night men’s hockey honored their seniors, head coach Guy Gadowsky opted for senior starter Oskar Autio between the pipes, while Minnesota started junior Justen Close in net.

A stark contrast to Friday’s game, the Nittany Lions took the lead early when freshmen Danny Dzhaniyev received a pass right in front of the net from junior Tyler Gratton and tapped it in with 17:59 left to play. Freshmen Dylan Lugris also tallied an assist on the play.

After some great play that saw Penn State dominating in its offensive zone and keeping Minnesota from clearing its zone with some great sticks in passing lanes, freshmen Ryan Kirwan extended the Nittany Lions’ lead to 2-1 with 9:27 left to play in the first. Freshmen Ben Schoen and junior Kevin Wall picked up assists on the play.

The Nittany Lions did not wait long before striking again, extending the lead to 3-1 a mere 14 seconds after Kirwan’s goal. Sophomore Tyler Paquette scored with 9:13 left in the period, while juniors Connor MacEachern and Connor McMenamin tallied assists on the play.

By the end of the first, Penn State doubled Minnesota in shots 14-7 and led 3-0. 

The second period started with the announcement of a ten-minute misconduct on sophomore Jimmy Dowd Jr. at 20:00 of the first period, putting the Nittany Lions down a forward for the first ten minutes of the second period.

Minnesota broke through early, with sophomore Mike Koster scoring unassisted with 15:21 left to play, closing the gap to 3-1.

After some play that saw the Gophers dominate Penn State in the defensive zone, senior Blake McLaughlin made it a one-goal game with 7:33 left to play. Seniors Ben Brinkman and Sammy Walker picked up assists.

After some scrambling in the defensive zone and some impressive saves from Autio, Penn State cleared the zone and fledged an attack on Minnesota’s net, where Xander Lamppa buried the puck and put Penn State up 4-2 with 5:07 left to play in the period. Freshman Carson Dyck and sophomore Christian Berger assisted on the goal.

The Nittany Lions weren’t able to keep their two goal cushion for long, as senior Grant Cruikshank put the puck past Autio with 2:33 left to play. Mike Koster picked up the primary assist, while junior Ben Meyers tallied the secondary on the 4-3 goal.

The second period ended with Penn State up 4-3, outshooting the Gophers 23-20. 

Play was a little flat when the third period started, with both teams going without particularly good scoring chances or definitive offensive-zone domination.

The game finally saw its first penalty, though it was against Danny Dzhaniyev for hooking, putting the Gophers on the power play with 16:38 left to play.

Despite staying in Penn State’s defensive zone, the penalty kill looked promising. However, Minnesota freshman Aaron Huglen scored on the power play to tie the game with 15:19 left to play, with Ben Meyers and junior Jackson LaCombe assisting. 

After the power-play goal, the third period continued with Minnesota dominating play in their offensive zone. After plenty of chances, Jackson LaCombe scored the go-ahead goal for the Gophers with 11:33 left to play in the period. 

On the same play, Christian Berger received a two-minute minor for slashing, sending Minnesota back to the power play. However, the Nittany Lions held them off with a successful penalty kill and kept it a one-goal game, with the score 5-4 in favor of Minnesota.

After an offensive resurgence during the third, Penn State pulled Autio with 1:38 remaining in the period for the extra skater in hopes of tying the game. There was a close call on an empty-net chance for the Gophers, but the defense stepped up and knocked the shot out of the way.

However, the empty-netter could only be put off for so long, and Grant Cruikshank sealed the game at 6-4 for the Gophers with 39.8 left to play.

At the end of the third, Minnesota outshot the Nittany Lions 33-26 and outscored them 6-4.

Takeaways

  • The Nittany Lions looked strong in the first period. This was, arguably, their best single period of the season. They dominated offensively, walked the blue line with skill, and demonstrated some great defensive stick moves to prevent their season-long issue with turnovers.
  • After the skillful play of the first, the second period seemed to see the team fall apart defensively. Minnesota players seemed to be able to walk into the goal crease with little to no pressure from Penn State’s defense until they were already in dangerous scoring position. This hurt the Nittany Lions by giving the Gophers some excellent scoring chances. This was the reason for Minnesota’s ability to outshoot Penn State, despite being doubled in shots at the end of the first period.
  • It’s clear the Nittany Lions can execute a highly offensive, winning style of play. Their problem lies in consistency between periods. The big problem in Penn State’s game last night were the aforementioned costly turnovers, but those were not a consistent problem tonight. In fact, they were prevented pretty frequently. However, as one aspect improved, another faltered. The Nittany Lions need to figure out how to keep all aspects of their game consistent without letting one aspect of play falter as another improves. 

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will take on Michigan State in East Lansing on Friday, February 25 in the first of a two-game series. The puck will drop at 7 p.m.

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About the Author

Caitlin Burns

Caitlin is a senior majoring in english. She watches "Dance Moms" from the beginning three times a year and thinks she's a barista because she can make one drink from Starbucks. She can usually be found taking a nap or being unreasonably angry at small inconveniences. You can contact her at [email protected]

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