The Lions came out tentative in the first period. Minnesota controlled the game in the early going and was able to take a commanding 3-0 lead that would prove to be too much for PSU to overcome. Penn State fought hard but was unable to get the puck past Minnesota's amazing goalie Adam Wilcox.
The game against Minnesota on Saturday night may be played for momentum only for Penn State. If Michigan State loses to Michigan earlier in the day, and the Lions win, PSU will grab the third seed in the Big Ten tourney. If MSU wins or ties Michigan, PSU will grab the #4 seed and the game tonight will not matter in terms of positioning for the team. Minnesota will have a lot riding on the game tonight.
The opening period was all Gophers. Initially the home team controlled play by maintaining possession in the offensive zone for a majority of the time. Early on the Lions seemed tentative and Minnesota was anything but, forcing the issue and keeping the pressure on goalie Eamon McAdam. Playing on the wide sheet of ice in Mariucci Arena, the visiting Lions struggled to maintain proper angles in the early going.
The teams skated for eight minutes without a penalty until Zach Saar was called for hooking. With a success rate of 30 percent on the power-play, the Gophers had PSU right where it wanted them. It didn't take long for the team to capitalize on the man advantage.
Kyle Rau scored a power-play goal less than a minute into the power play.
Penn State was not able to muster the energy to break Minnesota's momentum and two minutes later the home team extended the lead. Justin Kloos scored on a wrap-around goal that beat Eamon McAdam. McAdam held onto the left side of the goal a little too long as Kloos reversed position behind the net. When the goalie crossed the crease in an attempt to stop the shot, the puck slid just underneath the right pad for the goal.
At this point it was looking like the Lions were on the ropes and hoping to get out of the period with the two-goal deficit. Having only mustered three shots in the first 12 minutes, Guy Gadowsky's squad looked out of sorts and it didn't take long for the Gophers to pile on another score.
Four minutes after the Kloos goal, Hudson Fasching scored to give the home team a three-goal cushion.
The first period ended with Minnesota holding the lead and an advantage in shots of 18-6. The team came ready to play as it often does at home and on the first day of each series.
The Lions regrouped after a loose first period. The team skated well in the early-going and was able to create more scoring chances in the first few minutes than it had in the previous twenty.
Minnesota was called for three penalties in the second frame but Penn State was unable to make it hurt. The Gophers were unsuccessful on the one power play that it had in the period on a call against PSU for too many men on the ice.
Casey Bailey had two great scoring chances midway through the period. On a cross-ice pass from David Goodwin, Bailey smashed a one-timer on net but goalie Adam Wilcox was there for the save. On the next offensive set Bailey skated the puck into the zone and went right to the front of the net for a backhand shot that almost got past Wilcox.
The Lions were only able to amass six shots on goal in the period but momentum was turned from all in Minnesota's side to even between the teams.
The final period began as the second left off. Penn State skated well but was unable to score a goal in order to cut into the lead.
There were seven penalties called in the period. Penn State had two five-minute penalties. The first was on Casey Bailey on a very soft call. Bailey hit Travis Boyd and the Minnesota forward fell to the ice as he neared the boards. The call was boarding and it negated a power-play that the Lions had at the time. Boyd fell to the ice like he was seriously injured in order to draw the sympathy of the referee. A minute later Boyd was laughing about the acting job on the bench with his teammates.
The five minute penalty on PSU's best scorer all but ended the Lion's chances of winning the game. Already down three goals, it would be without the Big Ten's leading goal scorer until under eight minutes remained in the game.
PSU was able to kill the penalty against Bailey but the team then faced a second obstacle, the clock. Time was running out for a comeback and the team was becoming desperate.
Guy Gadowsky pulled goalie Eamon McAdam with four minutes left to play, down three goals. It didn't take long for Minnesota to add a fourth goal off the stick of Leon Bristedt. The game was now in hand but the fireworks were not over.
Thirty seconds later Minnesota scored another goal on McAdam. Vinni Lettieri scored for the Gophers and a nanosecond later Scott Conway of PSU came through and dropped Lettieri to the ice with a vicious elbow to the head. It was a clear cheap-shot by Conway and everyone in the stadium saw the play. The Gophers immediately came to the defense of their fallen player. There was a fight involving a half-dozen players behind the net. Justin Kloos was given a penalty for punching a PSU player in the head during the scuffle.
The game ended with the feeling that there will be some hitting in tomorrow's game. There was honest disgust between the teams. Minnesota did not appreciate the late hit by Conway. Penn State was upset with the way the Gophers over-emphasized each hit, falling to the ice many times in an attempt to draw a penalty.
#NittanyLions drop the opener at No. 15 Minnesota, 5-0. Back at it tomorrow, 8 p.m. ET. #HockeyValley pic.twitter.com/Zi9MBAkeK2— Penn State Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) March 14, 2015
Stars of the Game
*-Kyle Rau (Minnesota) One goal and two assists.
**-Adam Wilcox (Minnesota) 18 saves, no goals allowed, shut-out.
***-Hudson Fasching (Minnesota) One goal, one assist.
- Penn State took only 18 shots on goal, the lowest total for the team all season. It averaged 40 shots on goal per game, tops in the country, entering the game.
- The comment section of this article will be used as the open thread conversation for the second game of the series on Saturday night.
- The game was played in front of a crowd of 9,813 fans, the second-highest total on the year only topped by the game against Vermont in Philadelphia.