Nate Sucese had two goals at critical moments to lift Penn State (9-2) to a huge road sweep in conference play. It took the Lions a half-dozen years to put together two wins in Mariucci Arena. Getting two in one weekend sends a message to the rest of the conference, and for that matter, the country.
With the wins the Lions will remain atop the Big Ten standings and should move into the top-5 in both the USCHO.com poll and the more important PairWise Rankings. There is a lot of hockey to be played this year but the team is in a great position heading back home to take on Ohio State.
Yes, that’s right. The Lions will face off with the Buckeyes on Friday night and then after the football game on Saturday night.
How It Happened
Penn State killed an early Cole Hults penalty as the two teams skated evenly for the first five minutes. A few minutes later Sam Sternschein went to the box for hooking and this time Minnesota made it hurt. A seeing-eye snap shot from the point got past Peyton Jones through some bodies and a tip by Scott Reedy.
Penn State went on a power play soon after but it was Peyton Jones that had to face a 2 on 1 as the advantage came and went without a scoring chance for the Lions.
With 3 minutes left in the period Peyton Jones nearly made a circus save off a puck that bounced off him, then the post. Jones grabbed the puck in midair when the puck was behind him. Unfortunately the puck was ruled to have crossed the goal line after a lengthy review.
The puck deflected off a stick, the post, then was on Jones’ back for a moment before falling into his glove as he reached back. Here’s the view from behind the net. With the call being a made goal, the review decision was that the call stood.
Penn State had to kill another penalty to make it to the first intermission down 2-0.
Jones faced a flurry of shots early in the second period. He made a couple of saves and the puck went off the post as well. The Lions went on a power play shortly after. The kill was going well for the Gophers until Jones took matters into his own hands. Playing the puck off the boards while both sides were changing, he passed the length of the ice to Sam Sternschein.
Just a little more than a minute later Minnesota scored on a breakaway on a long pass of their own to regain a two goal lead. Penn State came right back on the next shift, right off the faceoff. Alex Limoges got the puck to Liam Folkes, who put a backhand right through the legs of goalie Jared Moe.
Just like that the game was 3-2 with just five minutes off the clock in the second period. Three goals were scored in 1:20 of game time.
Penn State killed a penalty midway through the period and a couple of minutes later Nate Sucese tied the game. The puck worked around the boards and to Sucese, who tipped it in midair. You can use the controller on the gif to slow it down, and put it in high definition, which you may need to see Sucese’ stick make contact.
The environment inside Mariucci Arena was muted after the tying goal. The Gophers held a momentum and score advantage for most of the night, and while it was a tie game, it had the feeling that things were slipping away.
Sampo Ranta had a few highly productive shifts for Minnesota toward the end of the period and it appeared that he was destined to get a goal but Penn State was able to hang on, making it to the second intermission tied 3-3.
Clayton Phillips, who transferred to Penn State from Minnesota this year and was granted immediate eligibility to play, scored the go-ahead goal four minutes into the final period. Phillips fired a shot from the blue line that had enough on it to get through a screen in front of the net.
It got very quiet inside the once formidable Mariucci Arena. The fans seemed as though they were waiting for the next shoe to drop. Through 9 minutes of play the Gophers did not have a shot on goal, while Penn State held a 4-3 lead and all the momentum.
The shoe came in the form of a Nate Sucese goal on a quick catch and release. Using his speed to get behind the defense, he used his hands to beat the goalie.
Finally Minnesota got its first shot of the third period, more than 11 minutes in, while on a power play. A second shot came with the advantage but the penalty expired with 7 minutes to play and the lead two goals.
With 5:27 to play the Gophers went on the power play again in what had the feeling of their last chance to mount a comeback. It wasn’t meant to be. Denis Smirnov added the dagger a minute later.