The Penn State Nittany Lions (18-14-4, 10-9-1 Big Ten) were swept by the fifteenth-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers (21-12-3, 12-5-3 Big Ten) this weekend, falling 5-0 on Friday and 6-2 on Saturday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
Opening Night: Minnesota scored three goals in seven minutes during the opening period to establish a firm lead over Penn State in what would become just the second shutout of the season for the Nittany Lions.
The Gophers possess the nation’s best powerplay percentage and used that to their advantage with Kyle Rau’s opening goal, his seventeenth of the season. Justin Kloos added his own mark less than two minutes later, firing a shot past Nittany Lions’ goaltender Eamon McAdam. Hudson Fasching scored with 5:03 remaining in the first period to give the Gophers a 3-0 lead.
The second period was scoreless.
Minnesota scored two quick goals in the final minutes of the third period to handily take Penn State. Leon Bristedt got the empty-netter with 3:15 remaining while Vinni Lettieri rebounded a shot by Michael Brodzinski to finalize the score at 5-0 with 2:47 remaining to play.
Following Lettieri’s goal, Penn State’s Scott Conway was served a 10-minute game misconduct major penalty for an illegal contact to the head call that occurred during a fight. The Nittany Lions totaled 26 penalty minutes.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky expressed his disappointment in the behavior, saying, “That’s not Penn State hockey.” Gadowsky added: “There’s no place for that.”
The Lions attempted only 18 attempts on goal during the game, the fewest shots in the program’s Division I history. Minnesota had 40 in the winning effort.
No Redemption for the Lions: Saturday saw another Nittany Lion loss, although Penn State opened the first period with a goal by former Golden Gopher Max Gardiner. Teammate Zach Saar went for the slapshot goal late in the first period that rebounded off of Gardiner’s stick.
Minnesota cut Penn State’s celebration short, ripping back-to-back goals just 20 seconds apart. Seth Ambrose started the Gophers’ scoring with a rebound from Travis Boyd, followed by Fasching’s eleventh goal of the season at 18:09.
Minnesota killed a powerplay by Penn State that stretched over two periods and extended the lead to 3-1 with a goal from Rau 4:32 into the second period.
Penn State fought back and cut the lead to one just under two minutes later with a sneaky goal from James Robinson during a scramble in front of Minnesota’s net.
Gophers’ defenseman Ryan Collins registered his first career goal at 7:33 into the period to give Minnesota a two-goal cushion.
The Gophers finished off the Lions with two more goals in the second period. Rau scored his second of the game and third of the weekend at 13:44. Fasching had the final goal of the game with 3:51 to go, forcing Nittany Lions’ netminder PJ Musico out of the game. Matthew Skoff replaced the senior, making his first game appearance since his February 28 start against Ohio State.
Big Ten Standings: The two wins settled Penn State at fourth place in the Big Ten standings and ended its chance to take the coveted top spot, but gave Minnesota its fourth straight first place title.
Michigan State ended up with the second place spot, followed by Michigan. Ohio State took fifth, and Wisconsin rounds out the standings at sixth.
According to the Big Ten Bracket (found here), Michigan and Wisconsin will battle for the chance to advance and play Michigan State.
Penn State will face fifth-seeded Ohio State in the opening round of Big Ten Tournament play on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena on Big Ten Network and BTN2Go. The winner will move on to play Minnesota on Friday.
The championship game will take place on Saturday, March 21 at 8:00 p.m.
Photo Credit: GoPSUSports.com