Evan Barratt had been enjoying a quiet but reasonably successful freshman campaign prior to last weekend. The Bristol, Pa. native had put up 13 points in 26 games and planted himself as a quality third-line center for Penn State.
The past four games have had quite an impact on Barratt’s profile, however.
After making a name for himself by dominating a newly-formed personal rivalry with Ryan Lindgren, Barratt has etched his name in the Nittany Lions’ record books by netting the game-winning goal in the Lions 6-5 victory over Minnesota Saturday night.
Barratt’s third period tally, his second goal of the game, completed an opening round sweep of the Golden Gophers and advance the blue and white to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. The first-round win may also secure an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
The Nittany Lions now sit at No. 12 in the PairWise rankings. Just over a week ago, before the Lions’ four-straight victories over the Gophers, Guy Gadowsky’s squad was on the outside looking in, sitting at No. 16.
It wasn’t just Barratt who had a spectacular run against the Gophers. His line with Alex Limoges and Liam Folkes scored nine of the Lions’ 21 goals over the past four games.
“That’s quite a stat,” Gadowsky said of the line’s recent stretch. “I don’t think there’s anything I can say right now that would do what they’ve done justice.”
How It Happened
It didn’t take long for the Nittany Lions to assert themselves in tonight’s contest. Just 16 seconds after the opening puck drop, Trevor Hamilton hammered a shot from the point through a crowd that fluttered past a screened Eric Schierhorn.
As the action slowed midway through the first period, the Lions doubled their lead. After a scramble in front of Schierhorn, the puck bounced to Liam Folkes, who knocked it into a gaping net for his 12th of the season.
For the second consecutive game and third time in the past two weekends, the Lions lineup shrunk as a result of an ejection. While no penalty was called during the play, Brett Murray was tossed from the game for contact to the head after a hit on Golden Gophers’ forward Leon Bristedt.
The Gophers took advantage of the extended man advantage, as Casey Mittelstadt rifled a shot over Peyton Jones’ glove for his third goal of the weekend.
Just a couple minutes later, the Lions responded with a power play tally of their own. After Alex Limoges gathered the puck near the faceoff dot, he fired a pass toward the net. Evan Barratt steered the puck past Schierhorn’s right pad to restore the Lions’ two-goal lead.
Midway through the period, the Gophers cut the Lions’ lead in half once again as Jack Ramsey’s wrist shot bounced off Trevor Hamilton and through the legs of Jones.
A few minutes later, Rem Pitlick tied the game at three. After streaking down the left wing, Pitlick fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Jones.
After Limoges was called for elbowing, the Gophers netted a third-straight goal on the ensuing power play. Late in the man advantage, Mittelstadt sent a pass through the crease to Scott Reedy, who caught Jones out of position and redirected the puck into a vacant net.
As the middle frame wound down, James Robinson tied the game back up for the Lions. On a 2-on-1 with Chase Berger, the Lions’ captain buried a wrister past an outstretched Schierhorn.
Early in the third period, the Gophers regained the lead. After a poor line change by the Lions, the Gophers took advantage of a 3-on-1 chance. After Mittelstadt drew Jones out of position, he found Reedy standing near the left post.
The Lions responded a few minutes later with another power play goal. Fresh out of the penalty box after a penalty of his own, Brandon Biro gathered the puck below the goal line, powered his way to the front of the net and tucked a shot past Schierhorn’s right pad.
Midway through the final frame, Evan Barratt continued his assault on the Gophers. After picking up the puck near the blue line, his long shot was kicked out by Schierhorn. Barratt picked up his own rebound, made a quick move to the backhand and slid the puck into an open net to put the Lions back in front.
As the Gophers mounted a last-ditch effort to tie the game back up, Jones continued to stand on his head, and received a little help from his defenders. With the clock winding down on regulation, Kevin Kerr made perhaps the biggest save of the night, diving behind the Lions’ goalie to push the puck out of the crease with Pitlick waiting for a pass to come from Ryan Lindgren.
With the opening round victory, the Nittany Lions move on to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on March 10. With Ohio State and Michigan both winning their respective opening round series, the Lions will head to South Bend for a semifinal matchup with Notre Dame.