Goals By Period
Penn State has grown accustomed to playing desperate hockey this late in the season. Typically, the Nittany Lions are chasing an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. This season, they’ve got loftier conference goals in mind.
Destiny isn’t exactly in Penn State’s hands. With a bye week during the last weekend of the regular season, the Nittany Lions simply need to secure as many points as possible during their final regular season series against Minnesota, the team tied with the Nittany Lions atop the conference entering the weekend.
The Nittany Lions made the math a bit more complicated on Friday night following a 3-3 tie with the Golden Gophers.
Alex Limoges helped remedy Penn State’s situation with his goal in the second overtime period, giving the Nittany Lions sole possession of top spot — for now — with 38 points.
“It feels a little better than a tie,” coach Guy Gadowsky said following the game.
The Nittany Lions came out with the urgency of a team that knows it doesn’t have full control of its destiny. En route to a 60 shot night, the Nittany Lions outshot the Golden Gophers 21-5 in the opening period, but went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
Golden Gophers goalie Jack LaFontaine played lights out with 54 saves through the first overtime period.
His counterpart, Peyton Jones, had a more difficult outing. With most of the action at the opposite end of the ice, it seemed Jones never had the chance to settle into the game. He fought pucks through the night and made things easy for the Golden Gophers at times.
When the Nittany Lions needed him most, however, he came through as he so often has this season.
“In the end, he found a way to get the extra point, get the win in the Big Ten,” Gadowsky said. “So, he did what he had to do.”
When Jones couldn’t be the hero, Penn State’s captain, Brandon Biro, was. In one of the more impactful performances of his career, Biro picked up a goal and two assists as his line with Nate Sucese and Aarne Talvitie produced all three regulation goals for the Nittany Lions.
“I thought things were just clicking for Nate, Aarne, and I tonight. It felt like we kind of dominated the play,” Biro said.
Both of Biro’s primary assists showcased his extraordinary vision and creativity. His first, a helper on Talvitie’s first goal since Dec. 13, was a one touch pass off an aerial feed from Sucese. His second was a behind-the-back, backhand pass from below the goal line to set Sucese up for a tap in goal.
With how much trouble the Nittany Lions have had producing goals on a consistent basis, getting that line rolling once again will cause even more trouble for opposing defenses.
Looking ahead, the Nittany Lions will once again need to do whatever it takes to secure three points in the standings. The math isn’t exactly simple and will change dependent on the result of Senior Night’s contest. A regulation/first overtime win can make Penn State’s path to the regular season title much clearer, though.
Folks, we crunched the numbers. pic.twitter.com/QeUv7deIFf— Colin Piatt (@ColinPiattBSD) February 22, 2020
How It Happened
Toward the end of the first period, Aarne Talvitie opened the scoring with his first goal since Dec. 13. Brandon Biro gathered an aerial pass from Nate Sucese just inside the Golden Gophers’ zone, then one touched a pass to Talvitie, who had gotten behind the defense. The New Jersey Devils draft pick made a quick move and buried a wrister past Jack LaFontaine.
Midway through the second period, Golden Gophers captain Tyler Nanne leveled teh game at one, chipping a shot past Jones on a 2-on-1.
Early in the third period, Sucese put the Nittany Lions back in front thanks to a beautiful feed from Biro. As the latter was circling the net, he swung a backhand pass behind his back to catch LaFontaine moving the wrong direction. The former hammered a one timer past the fooled Golden Gophers goalie.
A few minutes later, Ben Meyers leveled the game once again. As he cycled from out of the corner, Meyers sent a half-speed shot on net. Jones had trouble with it as it bounced off his stick and over his shoulder.
With just under eight minutes to play, the Golden Gophers took their first lead of the night. Bryce Brodzinski cleaned up a rebound after Jones kicked out a deflected shot, putting over the outstretched leg of the Nittany Lions goalie.
Just a couple minutes later, Biro continued his exceptional night to level the game at three. The Nittany Lions captain collected the puck at the side of the Minnesota net and, after his first chance was stopped, knocked in his 10th goal of the season.
While the game officially ended a tie, there was still an extra point and solo lead in the conference to be had. Late in the second overtime period, Alex Limoges knocked in a rebound to give the Nittany Lions that Big Ten point.