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Penn State Clinches Home Ice Advantage With 3-2 Win Over Minnesota

The No. 1 seed in the conference will be decided next weekend, but the Nittany Lions positioned themselves well for their first regular season title.

Heather Weikel | Black Shoe Diaries

Goals By Period

Team 1st 2nd 3rd OT Final
Team 1st 2nd 3rd OT Final
Minnesota 2 0 0 x 2
Penn State 0 1 2 x 3

Destiny isn’t in Penn State’s hands. The No. 1 seed in the Big Ten is for the time being, though, and that’s as much as Penn State could have asked for this weekend.

With a 3-2 over Minnesota on Saturday night, the Nittany Lions clinched home ice advantage in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. While the top seed and first round bye won’t be decided until next weekend, the Nittany Lions also built a four-point lead over the Golden Gophers for that top spot.

The Nittany Lions didn’t make the night easy on themselves. The Golden Gophers built a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission and held a 2-1 lead after two periods.

With the Golden Gophers committed to collapsing in front of Jack LaFontaine and shutting down any shooting lanes the Nittany Lions had, scoring chances came scarcely throughout the evening.

Midway through the third period, however, the flood gates opened for the Nittany Lions.

Nikita Pavlychev leveled the game exactly nine minutes into the period. Just 31 seconds later, Kevin Wall blew the roof off the building as he scored what could become the Big Ten regular season title clinching goal. That achievement wasn’t on Wall’s mind when the puck hit the back of the net.

“I knew that it gave us the lead,” he said. “That’s about it.”

A bit has to go right for the Nittany Lions to hold onto that No. 1 seed through their bye week. They’ll need an Ohio State loss at Wisconsin on either night and for Minnesota to gain no more than four points against Michigan.

With so much uncertainty still in play, coach Guy Gadowsky hasn’t taken a moment to appreciate what could have been won on Saturday night. The night did produce a special moment for Gadowsky after the final horn sounded.

“Honestly, I can remember singing the alma mater with all the seniors, their families, and the Roar Zone,” he said. “That was pretty cool.”

How It Happened

Just less than three minutes into the game, the Golden Gophers opened the scoring. Peyton Jones gave up a juicy rebound after taking a shot to the mask, which Minnesota captain Sammy Walker jumped on for an easy finish.

Late in the first, Jackson Lacombe doubled the Golden Gophers lead. Lacombe received a nifty feed from Nathan Burke and shoveled a shot from the slot over Jones’ blocker.

Midway through the second period, Evan Barratt finally got the Nittany Lions on the board. On a 2-on-1 rush, Barratt swatted home the rebound of Liam Folkes’ initial shot.

Exactly nine minutes into the third period, Nikita Pavlychev leveled the game for the Nittany Lions. After Tyler Gratton took a stretch pass at the Minnesota blue line, he fed Pavlychev on a 2-on-1. Pavlychev quickly wristed a shot blocker side on LaFontaine.

Just 31 seconds later, Kevin Wall gave the Nittany Lions the lead. Wall gathered a loose puck in the slot, turned and fired a shot glove side on LaFontaine.