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Gophers Hockey: Minnesota top-six delivers in 5-1 victory over Penn State

Five of the six players on the top two Gopher lines scored goals as Minnesota had several more good chances go off the post or just wide.

A game summary in one picture
A game summary in one picture
Matt Christians - SB Nation

Minnesota has won through several different methods this season. Instead of relying upon one dominant line, the Gophers have gotten scoring throughout the lineup. So it was fitting as the regular season hits the final weeks that Minnesota got its best performance of the season from the top-six.

By the end of the night, there were positive vibes on the home bench and a Nittany Lions team trying to find another lesson this season.

Five players on the team's top two lines scored Friday in the second-ranked Gophers' 5-1 dominant win over Penn State. Minnesota (22-4-5, 11-2-2-0 Big Ten) got three goals from its top line in the first period followed by two, including the first shorthanded goal of the season, in the second from the second line.

"I thought Kyle's line was very good tonight. They had great energy, Sam was on his game tonight. I was kidding Sam during the week that he had a good week out at Penn State and we needed him to continue scoring," said University of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia after the game. "Hudson played well, Kyle played well and I really thought they got us going."

As big as the goals were, however, the chances were even bigger. Minnesota, who played most of Friday with senior Tom Serratore missing from an upper-body injury, out-shot Penn State (6-21-2, 2-12-1-0 Big Ten) 36-31, but as an upset Nittany Lions head coach Guy Gadowsky noted the chances were one-sided.

"This is a very tough place to play. I thought the biggest reason for that play was the Gophers," he said." I mean they just play tremendous. They play with speed, they won races, they won battles, they made plays. It's very difficult to play against them in their end and extremely difficult to play against in our end.

"So it was certainly a lesson in tempo hockey and it's an awesome venue with a great crowd."

The win gives the Gophers, who got 30 saves from Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) a 4 point lead over Wisconsin in the Big Ten conference race (Minnesota has 1 game in hand with points worth 3 for a win) and 11 over third place Michigan.

Friday's game against Penn State was the Nittany Lions' first-ever at Mariucci Arena and the first Gopher game following an off week. If Minnesota needed a reminder to wake up, Penn State was more than willing.

PSU sophomore defenseman Kenny Brooks took advantage of a Justin Holl (Chicago Blackhawks) penalty with his 3rd goal of the season 3:12 into the game. It was the first-ever Nittany Lions lead in a historical series lasting three games and one of the few positive moments.

Speedy Minnesota found its legs after a pair of bad line changes by taking advantage on the Olympic-size ice sheet.

"We had a nice week off, got a little bit of rest," Hudson Fasching said. "We're back together over break and are just happy to be together, and are happy with our play."

Warning came back with his 12th of the season less than 5 minutes later. The junior forward was set up by Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets) picking off a pass in the Nittany Lions zone. He then found Warning open in the right circle to snipe a shot past PSU goalie Matthew Skoff.

Fasching made it 2-1 with his 12th goal of the season before setting up Rau with a pass against the grain to give Minnesota a 3-1 lead with 3:50 remaining in the first. It's the first time this season all three members of the top line had scored in the same game.

"We've been learning a lot, improving greatly from our performances and our results from the start of the season, but certainly this was another lesson," said Gadowsky.

With Brooks in the box for a penalty carried over from the first period, Travis Boyd (Washington Capitals) found a wide open Taylor Cammarata (New York Islanders) thirty seconds into the second period for Cammarata's 8th goal of the season.

Condon, meanwhile, added the team's first shorthanded goal 12:30 into the middle frame. The senior forward, who had 4 shorthanded goals as sophomore, sniped one past Skoff to put the game out of reach.

Chemistry is big this time of year. When one line gets shut down, another needs to find a way. Minnesota has it right now and between the top-six lines each delivering and Mike Reilly, who had two assists, be on the same page as Environmental Sciences classmate Warning, the Gophers are clicking together on and off the ice.

"The bottom line is the guys we needed to score scored goals tonight," Lucia said.

Other notes:

-Attendance was announced at 9,929

-Adam Wilcox was one of 18 finalists for the inaugural Mike Richter Award.

-A blunt Gadowsky on if missing Luke Juha, Max Gardiner and Nate Jensen affected the Nittany Lions: "3 guys aren't going to change that outcome. This was an entire team which was much better than our entire team. Nothing that 3 guys could make a difference of."

-Lucia said Serratore will be re-evaluated tomorrow. Also a good chance backup goaltender Shibrowski plays on Senior Night.

-Fasching on his goal: "I didn't have a good shot and saw (Rau) slipping in to him. Worked out well, I guess."

-The two teams play again tomorrow night at 6 p.m. CT (7 p.m .ET) on NBCSN. Dan Kelly and Ben Clymer have the call in Minneapolis.


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