Minnesota was too much for Penn State to handle in the first game of a very important series. The Lions answered an early Gopher goal when Andrew Sturtz scored for the 18th time this season, tying his total as a freshman last year. Nate Sucese got Penn State a lead early in the second period but Rem Pitlick answered for the Gophers, scoring for the second time to tie the game at two apiece minutes later.
Ryan Norman scored the next goal, giving Minnesota a 3-2 lead, and it had a chilling effect on the fans inside of Pegula Ice Arena. The once boisterous crowd was pushed back on their heels. The feeling didn’t last long, as Kris Myllari answered for Penn State, tying the game at 3 with ten minutes remaining in the contest.
From there things went the Gopher’s way. Justin Kloos, Taylor Cammarata, and Rem Pitlick added goals in the third period for the comfortable 6-3 Gopher win.
The teams will play game two of the series on Saturday night at 8 p.m., the game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network.
Looking to spoil a chance for the Lions to move up in the rankings, the Gophers opened the game a few steps quicker than the Lions, winning battles to loose pucks and generating better offensive chances.
Just over six minutes in, the Gophers were finally able to capitalize on that speed. With a stretch pass from Tyler Sheehy, Rem Pitlick broke away with only Peyton Jones between him and the goal. Pitlick fired a wrist shot over Jones’ glove, opening the scoring for the Lions.
After a string of penalties resulted in a five-on-three for the Lions, Andrew Sturtz cleaned up the mess of a net-front scramble, lifting a shot over Schierhorn’s pad.
The two teams traded goals again in the middle frame. Just over five minutes in, Denis Smirnov, fresh off a five-point weekend against Wisconsin, sent a nifty pass to Nate Sucese, who had five points of his own against the Badgers. After a quick flick of the wrists, Sucese lifted the puck over Schierhorn’s blocker to give the Lions their first lead of the night.
Just three minutes later, Pitlick picked up his second of the night to respond for the Gophers. Again using his speed to create separation from a defender, Pitlick unleashed a cannon that sailed once again over Jones’ glove.
With just over five minutes remaining in the second period, the Gophers regained the lead. After a pair of saves by Jones, Ryan Norman hammered in the rebound as Jones sprawled to his right.
Early in the third period, the Gophers had several chances to double their lead, none of which came to fruition. After Leon Bristedt missed the net on a partial breakaway, Vinni Lettieri failed to convert on a 2-on-0, hitting the crossbar with Jones down and out.
Moments later, the Gophers appeared to have finally gotten an insurance marker as Justin Kloos deflected a rising shot by Steve Johnson through the legs of Jones. A lengthy review determined that Kloos deflected the shot with a high stick, however, keeping the Lions in the game.
The Lions finally took advantage of their defensive luck midway through the period. Gathering the puck at the point, Kris Myllari sent a floater on goal that eluded the traffic in front of Schierhorn and beat the sophomore goaltender over the right shoulder.
The Lions’ defensive luck ran out shortly after Myllari’s tying goal. With Brett Murray in the box for interference, Kloos blasted a shot past Jones from the left circle, giving the Gophers the lead once again.
This time, the Gophers didn’t give the Lions the chance to make a comeback. With just two and a half minutes remaining, Bristedt, who had used his speed the entire night to create plays, connected a pass to Taylor Cammarata in the slot, who beat Jones with a quick wrister. Rem Pitlick added a late empty net goal for his third goal of the day, and the first hat-trick of his career.