Penn State (17-13-5) may have punched its ticket to the NCAA tournament with the win tonight. There is plenty of hockey to be played, and opportunities for additional wins for Guy Gadowsky’s squad, but the team may already have done enough, with three straight wins over the Gophers, to gain an at-large bid.
At the moment, Penn State and Minnesota are essentially locked in a tie in the Pairwise rankings.
The teams swapped goals in the opening period. The Lions scored three goals in the second period to take a solid lead, two coming in the final 1:11 in the frame. Minnesota cut the lead to one goal in the final minutes but the Lions were able to hold on.
The teams will play game two of the series on Saturday night at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports North and will be streamed live via BTN2go.com.
How It Happened
The atmosphere was not what it normally is inside the Pegula Ice Arena. With the students on Spring Break and the stadium less than full, there was not the normal buzz inside the arena. The teams were scoreless through the first ten minutes, with the Gophers leading 6-3 in shots on goal. The Lions were the first to go on the penalty kill and it wasn’t good for the home team. Casey Mittelstadt scored a power-play goal to give Minnesota an early 1-0 lead.
The Lions went on the power-play with six minutes to play before the first intermission. Denis Smirnov picked the puck out of the corner boards and found Cole Hults for the goal.
Erik Autio was hit from behind into the boards in the final minutes of the period. The hit caused the referees to review the play to check whether there would be more than two minutes given to the Minnesota player. It was a five-minute major and Darian Romanko was ejected from the game. Penn State used the extra skater to control play for the remainder of the period.
The Lions used the advantage into the second period. Nate Sucese scored to give the Lions a 2-1 lead with a little over a minute left on the five-minute major.
The Lions worked the puck around nice on the sequence but the crossing pass from Kris Myllari to Sucese was pretty.
With 11:17 to play in the second period Liam Folkes had his stick taken from him during a breakaway and Penn State went on the power-play again. Minnesota killed the penalty with relative ease. Shortly after, the Gophers found themselves skating 5 on 4 and they peppered Peyton Jones with shots but were unable to score.
Scott Reedy tied the game for Minnesota with five minutes to play before the second intermission. Late in the period the Lions took the lead back with a goal by Denis Smirnov.
It wasn’t the end to the scoring for the Lions as another goal was added by Andrew Sturtz to get the home team a 4-2 lead heading into the final twenty minutes.
Each team came out skating aggressively in the final period. Through five minutes there were scoring chances on each side but the spread remained two goals.
Evan Barratt had a breakaway shot that went off the post with twelve minutes to go in the game, nearly gaining a three-goal lead for Penn State. On the play there was a penalty on the Gophers, and the Lions went on the power-play. Minnesota killed it off without incident, but there was only ten minutes to play in the game when the teams were back to even skating.
With 9:43 left in the game James Robinson was called for a penalty and the referees went to the replay to decide whether he should get more than just a two-minute penalty. After conferring for a few minutes, it was decided that Robinson was tossed from the game. It was a five-minute major and it gave the Gophers the chance it needed to get back into the game. Tyler Sheehy was given an embellishment penalty on the play, so initially the teams skated 4 on 4.
The Gophers went to a 5 on 4 advantage with 7:42 left to play in the game. Penn State was not able to kill the penalty but it was able to hold Minnesota off until there was just 17 seconds left in the major penalty. The teams skated even with five minutes left, the Lions leading 4-3. It only lasted for a handful of seconds before Erik Autio was called for a penalty and with 4:27 to play Penn State went on the penalty kill again, trying to hold a one-goal lead.
The Lions were able to kill the penalty with the help of a very engaged Pegula Ice Arena crowd. The seats may not have been sold out, but the fans that were there were supportive and aided the team when it needed it most.
Minnesota pulled goalie Mat Robson with 1:30 to play in the game. Evan Barratt got an empty-net goal to ice the game for the Lions with 29.9 seconds on the clock.