The Gophers grabbed the win in the first game of the series on THON weekend. In the early-going the support of the home crowd gave the Lions an advantage. With a flurry of goals early in the second period, Minnesota was able to secure the victory.
The game began with a level of fan participation that had not been seen very often this year. The entire arena was engaged from the first drop of the puck. The atmosphere was electric at the Peg. Across the street THON had just begun.
The action was fast in the early going. The hitting was hard but clean. It was easy to forget that Minnesota had begun the season a media-consensus lock to win the B1G regular season title and finish in the top 5 in the country overall. The visiting team played as well as it had all year, and goalie Adam Wilcox showed why he is one of the best net-minders in the country.
There were two penalties in the first period, one on each side. Both penalties were killed off and there was no effect on the game.
With 12:47 elapsed on the clock in the first period Penn State was the first to score. David Goodwin scored on an assist from Erik Autio and Taylor Holstrom.
To this point in the game the action was fluid and there was a constant tug-of-war back and forth with neither team holding an advantage. Penn State would hold the edge in shots when the final whistle blew at the end of the period, 15-14, but to watch the teams battle, there was no true leader at the intermission. PSU had the first goal, and for the home team that had to have been a relief, and yet there was no definitive winner during the first period.
Following Goodwin's goal, with 7:13 remaining in the period, something rare in college hockey occurred. The referee dropped the puck at center ice following Goodwin's goal, and play was not interrupted until the period expired. The play was furious. The teams skated from one end to the next, taking shots and making plays. No player went off-side. No puck was deflected out of bounds. No whistle stopped play for over seven minutes after Goodwin's goal.
A one goal lead against what may still prove to be the best team in the country, at home, less than an hour after THON kicked off across the street, was not a bad position for the home team to find itself 20 minutes into the game.
Two minutes into the second frame Minnesota tied the game on a goal from Christian Isackson. The goal negated the advantage that the home team had enjoyed in terms of crowd noise. A feeling of eerie ambivalence fell upon the 6,148 fans inside the beautiful Pegula Ice Arena. It was as though the group was collectively sitting on their hands, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
As the stadium sat in a complacent state the players went back and forth until two minutes later when PSU's Zach Saar was called for a two-minute hooking penalty. During the penalty kill the Lions fought hard but the feeling of an inevitable goal loomed in the rafters of the stadium. Justin Kloos turned the fears into reality, scoring a power play goal and giving the Gophers what would become the game winning 2-1 edge.
The advantage was flipped during the period. Minnesota now held the advantage in score, but also, it had out-shot the most shootingest team in the country 12-6 in the period. Only six shots for the home team. It was the first time another squad had come into the home of one of the most potent teams in the country and neutered their advances so thoroughly.
The final period saw only one clear advantage for either team. Kyle Rau was called for a tripping penalty four minutes in. The Gophers were able to kill the penalty. From this point the game was even. At times Minnesota tested Musico. With four minutes left Scott Conway had what would be the final shot on goal that could have easily found the back of the net for the home team.
On a brilliant pass from Eric Scheid, the freshmen Conway came up short on the finish. It would be the last high-percentage chance for tying the game.
Gadowsky pulled the former club hockey player Musico and the team fought hard but was unable to use the sixth skater to close the gap. The game ended and Minnesota will receive three points for the win, putting it in first place in the Big Ten for the now. Penn State will be forced to regroup.
It is critical for the Lions to win or gain points in the second game of the series.
- The reported attendance for the game was 6,148. It was a capacity crowd and it is certain that many of those in attendance will cross the street and enter the Bryce Jordan Center, taking part in THON activities overnight, following this tough loss.
- The second game of the series will begin at 5 p.m. on Saturday and will be televised on ESPNU. The men's basketball team will play against Northwestern on ESPNU at 3 p.m. The double-header on national television will draw a great deal of attention to THON.
- The comment section of this article will be used for the open-thread discussion during game two.