Gophers Hockey: Minnesota defeats Penn State 3-2; takes over first place in Big Ten

Ben Marshall and the Gopher blue line gives Penn State the blues in the Nittany Lions B1G opener - Minnesota Athletics

Ben Marshall scored the game-winning goal for Minnesota, whose three goals came from three different defensemen, with 4:01 left to ruin the Nittany Lions Big Ten home opener..

If a game is not on TV and no forwards score, does it count? In Minnesota's case, yes. It counts as a win.

Ben Marshall (Detroit Red Wings draft pick) scored the game-winning goal with 4:01 left to give the top-ranked Gophers a 3-2 win over Penn State (4-11-1, 0-3-0-0 Big Ten) Sunday. The junior was one of three defensemen to score for Minnesota (14-2-3, 4-0-1-0 Big Ten), who despite 42 saves by PSU freshman goalie Eamon McAdam (New York Islanders) and a two-goal comeback by the Nittany Lions came back to win the first-ever Big Ten conference game at Pegula Arena.

Taylor Holstrom and David Glen scored for the Nittany Lions.

"You have to tip your hat to the goaltender from Penn State," University of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said after the game. "We had a lot of good looks and good rebound opportunities, but he was there to make the save almost every time."

Brady Skjei (New York Rangers) gave the visiting Gophers an early 1-0 lead 2:37 into the game with his 3rd goal of the seeason. The sophomore, who represented Team USA at the 2014 World Junior Championships, has already eclipsed his goal total from last season.

Skjei was joined by fellow sophomore Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets) when he beat McAdam on the team's fourth power play of the night 11:34 into the second period. Travis Boyd (Washington Capitals) set up Reilly, who is one goal off the national lead for goals by a defenseman held by Denver's Joey LaLeggia (Edmonton Oilers) and Maine's Ben Hutton.

Sunday was also the fifth straight game Minnesota scored a power play goal.

"We had 45 shots, a lot of good looks and Grade As," Lucia said. "Penn State I thought played well and smart and patient and waited for their chances. It probably went the way they wanted it to go tonight other than the final score

The Nittany Lions cut the lead in half when Holstrom beat Gopher goaltender Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) with 1:51 remaining in the second period. It was enough of a boost for Penn State that Glen tipped a Nate Jensen shot past Wilcox, who made 28 saves Sunday, and all of a sudden it was a tie game.

To make matters worse, McAdam seemingly stopped every shot Minnesota could muster.

"Eamon stood on his head," Holstrom said.

Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky told reporters after the game that it was the freshman's best game, which isn't easy going against an offense that averages nearly 4 goals per game.

Still, the Gophers are the top-ranked team in the nation and on top of the Pairwise for a reason. The team has out-scored its opponents 23-10 in the third period this season. This time, much to the chagrin of 5,999 fans in Pegula Arena, it was Marshall, who has bounced back the last couple games after being scratched against Michigan State.

The junior defenseman shot a Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers) pass off the post and past McAdam for the winner.

"It's the first Big Ten game here. They were ready to go, I think we underestimated them a little bit, they came out firing. We were a little flat footed," said Marshall about the Nittany Lions. "When they scored that second goal to tie it up, we can't panic. That's how you lose a game."

With the win, Minnesota moves up to first in the Big Ten with 13 points. Wisconsin is one point behind after sweeping Michigan, but the Gophers have one game in hand.

Minnesota and Penn State play again tomorrow night (January 13, 2013) at 7:00 p.m ET in State College. This game WILL be televised on BTN.

--

Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him on Twitter --

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