Penn State scored a power play goal in the final minutes of overtime to secure a series tie against one of the best teams in the country. As it stands at 8 p.m. on Saturday night, the Lions are in sole possession of second place in the Big Ten standings.
Minnesota gave a valiant effort tonight but in the end Penn State was able to keep the team from breaking out with a flurry of goals. Juha had them all in check when he tallied the game winning score in overtime on a power play goal. This win was the first for PSU against the Gophers in program history and it could not have come at a better time.
After the game a flood of fans and soon after members of the hockey team made the walk across the street to join the THON festivities. It's safe to say that there will be a lot of dancing in store for the team tonight.
The first period started with the home team looking a little lethargic. Initially the Gophers had the upper hand in terms of effort and puck control. That changed five minutes in when Minnesota took a penalty. The Lions were not able to score with the man advantage but it was able to flip momentum. A minute after the power play expired, Curtis Loik scored for the Icers on a wrap-around play that he initiated from behind the net. Loik was initially denied by Wilcox but stayed with the play and slapped the rebound home. Scott Conway got an assist on the play.
After five minutes of continuous end-to-end action Conway scored a goal of his own on a assist from Richard and Scheid. Conway ended up out in front of the pack with just one Gopher to beat in order to get a clean shot on goal. He beat the defense and scored on a backhand goal that was just plain filthy.
Penn State was able to hold on for the remaining seven minutes of the period without allowing Minnesota to close the gap. With seven seconds left in the period, however, PSU took a penalty and was forced to start the second period facing a penalty kill.
The Gophers had the advantage as the period started due to having a power play for the first two minutes. After the power play it kept the heat on PSU, getting a number of good scoring chances. During this time the Lions were playing extremely well on defense, blocking passes in an effort to keep the opponent from getting open shots. The team blocked 13 shots from the visiting team through the first 25 minutes of play.
With twelve minutes left in the period Casey Bailey took a hooking penalty. A minute later Travis Boyd scored a power play goal to cut the lead to 2-1.
Two minutes later while the teams were skating four on four due to penalties, Scott Conway scored to make the lead 3-1. Conway scored on an odd man rush with linemate Eric Scheid on a give and go that resulted with Conway netting his second goal of the night.
With the remaining time on its power play, Minnesota took advantage and cut the lead to 3-2 on a second goal from Travis Boyd. The period ended with the score unchanged.
Stats After 2 Periods (PSU-MINN): Shots 20-21; Saves 19-17; Power Plays 1-2 // 2-3; Faceoff Wins 24-28; Blocked Shots 17-5. #HockeyValley— Penn State Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) February 21, 2015
The start of the final period was surprisingly slow considering how high the stakes were for each team. For the first few minutes the teams swapped lazy punches with a lot of turnovers in the transition game. Minnesota gained control of momentum with four minutes expired in the frame. With twelve minutes left in the game Eric Scheid took a penalty and it looked like the Gophers would certainly tie the game with the man advantage. PSU was able to kill the penalty.
The teams skated evenly with Minnesota holding the edge in terms of controlling the puck in their offensive zone for the majority of time.
After a flurry of shots Penn State was forced to ice the puck a few times just to catch its breath. With five minutes left coach Guy Gadowsky gave his squad a break by calling a time out. The strategy worked as PSU was able to win the ensuing face-off and clear the zone cleanly for the first time in a couple of minutes.
The teams skated furiously. With under a minute left and PSU clinging on to a 3-2 lead, Alan Wilcox skated to the bench and Minnesota played with an extra skater. Penn State held tough for over a minute, facing a barrage of quality scoring attempts and turning them away. With 39.6 second remaining in regulation the Gophers broke through, scoring the tying goal on a Sam Warning effort.
The period began with even play on either side. The teams were aggressive and each had chances to score. With two minutes remaining in overtime Minnesota was called for a penalty. PSU made it count on a game winning goal from Luke Juha just 19 seconds later.
Pegula Ice Arena erupted in celebration with the game winning goal. Penn State is now in second place in the B1G standings and with the win it is still in contention for the regular season title or at least the coveted second place finish which will garner a bye in the first round of the B1G tournament.
The Lions will face off against Ohio State next weekend in Columbus, Ohio for a pair of very winnable games.
The team's success on the night did not end with the win on the ice. It also took home the team dance competition as well.