During Friday night’s postgame press conference, Penn State captain Paul DeNaples said the true test of the Nittany Lions mental fortitude would be how they responded Saturday evening.
For about 20 minutes, DeNaples clairvoyance couldn’t be questioned.
For the remaining 40 minutes, questions of the Nittany Lions fragility were reinforced.
After controlling the first period, the Nittany Lions blew a three-goal lead to Minnesota, ultimately falling 6-4.
Goals By Period
There weren’t the obvious errors that plagued the Nittany Lions (14-17-1, 5-16-1 Big Ten) on Friday and at other times throughout the season. Rather, it was more of an overarching shift in how the Nittany Lions approached the game during the first intermission.
“Our mentality was to go score in the first and maybe in the second it was not to get scored against,” coach Guy Gadowsky hypothesized. “That’s not how we’re built.”
The Gophers (21-11-0, 16-6-0) benefitted from a trio of reinforcements back from Olympic duty. Though Matt Knies was held out of the lineup and Brock Faber was held off the scoresheet, Ben Meyers notched three helpers.
How It Happened
The Nittany Lions broke the ice early in the first period. Tyler Gratton took a feed from Dylan Lugris and drove down the right wing, then flipped a backhand pass to Danny Dzhaniyev, who guided the puck past Justen Close.
Midway through the period, Ryan Kirwan doubled the Nittany Lions’ lead, burying a rebound from right in front of the net.
Just 14 seconds later, Tyler Paquette added another, buring a one timer off a feed from Connor MacEachern.
Early in the second period, the Golden Gophers got one back, Mike Koster collected the puck just inside the Penn State zone and outwaited Oskar Autio before tucking a backhand shot just inside the post.
Blake McLaughlin pulled the Gophers within a goal later in the period. After the Nittany Lions botched a 4-on-2 rush, McLaughlin found some open ice in the attacking zone and beat Autio short side.
A couple minutes later, the Nittany Lions restored their two-goal lead, as Xander Lamppa somehow beat Close from the sharpest of angles.
The Gophers got back within a goal before the second period concluded, as Grant Cruikshank finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play with a one timer from the right circle.
Early in the third period, the Gophers completed the rally all the way back, tying the game with a power play tally from Aaron Huglen.
A few minutes later, the Gophers took their first lead of the night, as Jackson LaCombe buried a one timer off the post and in.