STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It may have been Penn State’s first Big Ten home game, but it was No. 1-ranked Minnesota that came out victorious by a 3-2 count Sunday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
The Nittany Lions did not make it easy for the Golden Gophers, however.
With the game tied and less than five minutes to go in regulation, Ben Marshall tried his luck with a shot through traffic that snuck its way past Nittany Lions’ goaltender Eamon McAdam for what proved to be the game-winner.
Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky admitted after the game that the contest his squad played against Boston College on Dec. 28 gave them a small idea of what to expect against Minnesota.
Tonight, the Gophers didn’t waste much time as they got on the scoreboard less than three minutes into the game at 2:37 of the first period. Brady Skjei took a slap shot from the blue line that zoomed past McAdam. A.J. Michaelson and Connor Reilly each recorded an assist on Skjei’s third goal of the season.
The Gophers also outshot the Lions 12-9 in the first stanza.
The first half of the second period was a back-and-forth contest until Mike Reilly launched a rocket from the point into the Penn State net. The power-play goal gave the Gophers a two-goal lead at 11:34.
Penn State got its first goal when Taylor Holstrom scored his second goal of the year to put his team back within a goal. The redshirt junior redirected a pass from David Goodwin past Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox. The goal came at 18:09 of the opening period.
At the end of the period, the home fans rose to their feet and applauded their team’s effort to hang in against the top-ranked team in the country.
While the Golden Gophers still outshot the Nittany Lions 14-10 in the second period (26-19 total), Penn State had the edge in the faceoff circle, 24-20, heading into the second intermission.
The crowd of 5,999 had plenty more to cheer about at 3:45 of the third when David Glen tied the game when he redirected a shot from Nate Jensen past Wilcox.
Despite the glimmer hope for Penn State, Marshall’s goal at 15:59 of the third period was enough to win it for Minnesota.
Marshall said he was anticipating the puck coming to him and added that he could only hope that the shot got through.
All of the Gophers’ goals were from defensemen, something Minnesota coach Don Lucia noted.
“We’ve got some guys back there that can make some plays and shoot,” Lucia said. “Obviously, you saw that tonight with all three goals. We had some people in front of the net [creating] traffic.”
Even though he recorded the loss, McAdam finished the game with 42 saves in what Gadowsky said was his best game of the season.
“It’s a great team [Minnesota] and it’s real easy to get amped against them,” McAdam said. “It was easy to bounce back.”
The Golden Gophers outshot the Nittany Lions 19-11 in the third period and 45-30 total.
Much like other coaches around college hockey, Lucia complimented what Penn State has done with its young program.
“It was a good atmosphere,” Lucia said. “There was good energy in the building, especially after they scored. It’s a really nice facility – they have a great base and a really good future.”
In the immediate future, Penn State will look to upset Minnesota at 7 p.m. EST on Monday night in front of a whiteout crowd. The game will also be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network, something that Gadowsky said will keep his team pumped up.