DETROIT – Here are three takeaways from Penn State’s 4-3, double-overtime semifinal win over Minnesota:
1. Penn State is relentless. While they didn’t control every aspect and every minute of this game, the Nittany Lions outshot the Golden Gophers 63-40, and at the end of regulation shots were 43-23. Penn State leads the country in shots on goal, averaging 45.11 per game. The Nittany Lions will shoot the puck from anywhere to attempt to create offensive chances, a tactic that can keep the puck in an opponent’s end for an extended period of time and one that can certainly wear the opposition down. In Friday night’s game, the only period in which Minnesota outshot Penn State was in the second overtime, when shots were 11-9 in favor of the Golden Gophers.
2. The goaltending in Friday night’s game was outstanding. Clearly, Minnesota’s Eric Schierhorn was solid with 59 saves, but Penn State’s Peyton Jones robbed several Golden Gophers of certain goals. Jones’ most spectacular save was at 11:27 in the first overtime, a glove save that prevented Mike Szmatula from earning hero status. The defense for each team was also consistent right up until the game-winning goal. It strikes me that a week before the NCAA Tournament is a very good time for these two teams to elevate their defensive level of play, especially for Penn State.
3. This was an intense game, from the initial drop of the puck until Erik Autio’s game-winning goal at 13:33 in the second overtime, and the Nittany Lions sustained so much intensity in regulation that they looked a little gassed toward the end of the first OT. It’s a good bet that this will be a factor in Saturday’s championship game against Wisconsin. Not only was the turnaround shortened for Penn State by the double OT, but the emotion of likely securing the program’s first-ever NCAA bid with this win will likely keep these players up for some time.
Minnesota coach Don Lucia, whose team easily could have been the one facing a shortened recovery time before a championship game, fielded a question about changing the overtime format to four-on-four hockey. He was having none of it.
“Why change the game? The game’s five-on-five. No chance. That’s not the way hockey’s supposed to be played. Why change the game? The game’s five-on-five; let’s play five-on-five, no matter how long it takes. Does anybody get tired of watching overtime? I don’t know of anyone who says, ‘Oh, geez, I hated that goalie with the big save there.’ I think that’s the exciting part. I’m a purist. I’m a purist and you’re not going to see the Stanley Cup go four-on-four in overtimes, and neither should we.”