Minnesota spent much of the pregame Saturday against Penn State holding a ceremony to send off its seniors in style. Each of the five Gopher seniors were met by family and entered the rink like a wrestler through the zamboni entrance. Head coach Don Lucia even started all five - forwards Nate Condon (Colorado Avalanche) and Tom Serratore, defensemen Justin Holl (Chicago Blackhawks) and Jake Parenteau, and goalie Michael Shibrowski.
The seniors sent themselves off with a win that, as goalie Michael Shibrowski said, "(we) can't script it any better than that."
"I'm happy for our seniors and I'm happy for our team," said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, whose team finishes the year a school-best 15-1-3 at Mariucci Arena (opened in 1993). "This was an important win for us tonight."
Minnesota's seniors leaving program better off
Forwards Nate Condon, Tom Serratore, defensemen Justin Holl and Jake Parenteau, and goalie Michael Shibrowski will be honored tonight prior to the Gophers' last home game of the season.
Shibrowski wasn't the only senior involved in the heroics against Penn State (6-22-2, 2-13-1-0 Big Ten). Serratore missed most of Friday's victory against Penn State with an upper body injury and was a game-time decision Saturday. The senior ended up going through warm-ups, taking some time to adjust - along with a hard-hitting after the whistle penalty - and he ended up being the hero.
An emotional Serratore - who his head coach called a "heart and soul type of player - scored his 3rd goal of the season with 6:45 remaining in regulation, going over to teammate Ben Marshall (Detroit Red Wings) and tackling him. He then gave an extra pump in the celebratory line on the bench.
"It's a pretty good moment. The last run on the big pond, I couldn't ask for a better moment to end my career here at Mariucci," Serratore said. "It always feels good. Obviously goals are hard to come by in college, especially when you can put one away it feels good. I have to give a lot of credit to my linemates as well. They're the ones who kept working."
One of those linemates, Travis Boyd (Washington Capitals), got the Gophers on board 12:37 into the first period. The junior deked a Nittany Lion defender and went around PSU junior goalie P.J. Musico. While the goalie initially saved the puck, Boyd lifted it over him on his second shot for a 1-0 lead.
Minnesota hit a couple posts while Musico made a couple Grade A saves as part of his 35 Saturday. Shibrowski matched his blue and white counterpart, stacking the pads to rob Eric Scheid of a goal in the second before Curtis Loik scored his fifth goal of the season with 2:46 remaining in the middle period.
"You could see their goal coming because I thought we got casual in the second period," Lucia said.
Penn State had a couple chances in the third before the tables turned and the Gophers, storybook ending and all, out-shot PSU 15-2 over the final 12 minutes.
With the win, Minnesota (23-4-5, 12-2-2-0 Big Ten) has a 7 point lead in the Big Ten conference race with 4 games remaining. The Gophers also took over first place in the Pairwise rankings after Boston College was upset in overtime by Notre Dame.
Penn State hosts second place Wisconsin next weekend. Minnesota, meanwhile, travels to Ohio State for a two game series Friday and Saturday.
-Lucia on Penn State: "Penn State's building a program and they're doing it the right way. They're coming to compete from start to finish and good things are on the horizon for them."
-Musico played in only his fifth game this season in place of Friday's starter Matthew Skoff. Freshman goalie Eamon McAdam (New York Islanders), who made 42 saves against Minnesota in State College this past January, did not make the trip to Minneapolis.
-Nate Condon, a Wisconsin native playing in his 150th collegiate game, on what wearing the "M" has meant to him: "It means something different for me because I'm out of state. The main thing for me is when I came here three years ago, I was accepted very well.
"The fans have treated me great ever since I got here. It's been one of those things where I've blended in very nicely. I didn't have the friends from High School hockey like everyone else did. It's a great group of guys who took me in & it's been a lot of fun."
-Minnesota remains the only Big Ten team Penn State has yet to defeat since moving to D1 in 2012-13.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate