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Nittany Lion Notebook: Penn State vs. Minnesota

Photo by Matt Christians
Photo by Matt Christians
Matt Christians

Penn State now has at least one win versus every Big Ten team this season after splitting a wild weekend versus No. 17 Minnesota in their penultimate series at home in Pegula Ice Arena.

Friday, the Nittany Lions (16-10-4, 8-5-1 Big Ten) got out to an early lead, but were unable to stop the best power play squad in the nation and fell 2-1 to the Gophers (17-10-3, 8-3-3 Big Ten). Then on Saturday afternoon, Penn State exacted their revenge in a thriller of an overtime win, besting Minnesota 4-3 in the extra period.

Friday: 2-1 loss vs. Minnesota

A three-penalty second period doomed Penn State after a strong start as the Nittany Lions failed to keep the nation's No. 1 power play off the board in a 2-1 loss Friday evening.

Senior PJ Musico had a 33 save performance in net for Penn State and sophomore David Goodwin tallied the Nittany Lions' only goal of the game in the team's third straight loss after being swept by Michigan State last weekend.

Penn State's only tally came 12:47 into the game after some solid back and forth passing between Goodwin and Taylor Holstrom. After receiving a backwards pass from Holstrom upon entering the zone, the forward let go a precession shot from the left circle that beat Minnesota neminder Adam Wilcox over the right shoulder for the 1-0 Nittany Lion tally.

Minnesota's two goals came within the first five minutes of the second period to halt Penn State's momentum and swing the game in the Gophers' favor. First, Christian Isackson deflected a low shot from Jake Bischoff over Musico from the left side to even the score at 1-1 two minutes into the middle frame. Then, the first of three Nittany Lion penalties in the frame came back to bite them when Zach Saar took a two minute hooking penalty 3:53 into the period. On the advantage, Justin Kloos cut through a pair of Penn State defenders and went bar down on Musico all alone in front of the net at 4:57 of the frame to make it 2-1 Minnesota.

Penn State put up 15 shots in the third period, but Wilcox and the Minnesota defense were able to hold down the lead and come away with the one goal victory.

The Nittany Lions did outshoot the Gophers 36-35 thanks to their onslaught in the final frame, but Minnesota came away with the advantage on the power play, going 1-for-4 while keeping Penn State off the board in their two chances on the evening.

Saturday: 4-3 win vs. Minnesota

Penn State secured their first overtime win of the season in high stakes action after Minnesota's Sam Warning tied the game 3-3 with 40 seconds to play to force the Nittany Lions to their sixth extra hockey period of the year.

Luke Juha posted the winning goal on the power play for the Nittany Lions and freshman Scott Conway tacked on three points on two goals and one assist to push Penn State past Minnesota for the team's first win against the Gophers in their three year Division I history.

Warning almost spoiled the win for Penn State with his last minute goal to tie the game. With Wilcox pulled for the extra man, the forward finished off a series of heavy Gopher pressure in Penn State's zone with an easy tap in from the right post on the doorstep of Musico to send the game to an extra five minutes of hockey.

Juha was the hero for Penn State on the power play as the defenseman netted his second goal of the year at an opportune time to cap off the hard fought Nittany Lion win. Gopher Michael Brodzinski was sent to the box for a two-minute elbowing minor to put Penn State on their third power play of the evening 1:54 into the overtime period. On the advantage, the junior took a Casey Bailey pass up the boards and flung a low shot on net from the right point that Wilcox couldn't see with traffic in front for the winning 4-3 score at 2:13 of the extra frame.

Like the previous night, Penn State jumped out to an early lead on the Gophers but this time, they looked to hang on to their sustained pressure through the first 20 minutes. Curtis Loik got the scoring started for Penn State off the team's first power play goal of the game. Off his own wrap around that was stopped by Wilcox with the followup by Conway denied, the junior found the loose rebound and pocketed the puck glove side from the right post for the 1-0 Penn State lead 7:21 into the contest.

Just over five minutes later, Conway dazzled the Pegula crowd with a highlight reel strike to double the Penn State lead. The freshman turned a stretch pass into a breakaway after completely turning Minnesota defender Ryan Collins inside out and Conway finished off the series of moves with a top shelf backhander for the 2-0 score 12:23 into the opening period.

For the second straight second period, Penn State committed a crucial penalty that set up a Minnesota power play goal. Travis Boyd struck twice in the period for the Gophers, first on the man advantage 8:17 into the frame on a wrister that pinged off the crossbar and down over Musico's right shoulder to half the Penn State lead to 2-1.

Penn State regained their two-goal lead on Conway's second of the game with 4:16 to go in the middle frame. On a 4-on-4, the freshman capped of another pretty play on a rush, this time on a 2-on-1 with teammate Eric Scheid. Conway finished the passing play with a wrister down the slot that beat Wilcox from the right post to put Penn State up 3-1.

Thirty-seven seconds later, Boyd connected for his second strike to put the Gophers down one again to end the second period. On the power play with Bailey sitting for interference, the puck bounced off both posts from the forward's shot and beat Musico for the 3-2 score to finish out the combined three goal second period.

In net for the Nittany Lions, Musico capped off his fifth win of the season, putting up 32 saves in his second straight night of action.

Thanks to constant pressure in the latter half of the third period, the Gophers came away with the 36-33 shot advantage in the game. Penn State, however, blocked 32 total shots through the contest with 14 coming in the final 20 minute period.

On the power play, Penn State went 2-for-3 while keeping Minnesota's top ranked squad to two goals on four attempts.

The Good

PJ Musico once again got the call for the Nittany Lions in between the pipes and was instrumental in the team's success in Saturday's win. The senior had 66 saves on 71 Gopher shots through the weekend and head coach Guy Gadowsky's confidence in the netminder seems to grow with each game he plays. Penn State has shown it has three capable goaltenders after junior Matt Skoff and sophomore Eamon McAdam held down the goal crease in the first half of the season and now Musico has made the case to be the No. 1 goaltender for the Nittany Lions in their last few weeks of the regular season.

Gadowsky right now is riding the hot hand and right now, Musico's the guy for Penn State.

The Bad

Penn State knew what they were getting into when they were facing off against the No. 1 power play team in the nation in Minnesota. Still, the Nittany Lions let in three extra man goals on eight chances for the Gophers between the two games, raising Minnesota's percentage of success to 29.31 on the year, miles above second place Boston University with 24.35 percent. The power play goals were all key tallies for Minnesota, especially Kloos' goal on Friday that effectively put the game out of reach for the Nittany Lions.

"I just felt we weren't committed enough," Gadowsky said after Friday's loss. "It doesn't take Scotty Bowman to figure out that [Minnesota]'s pretty good on the power play."

Weekend Standout Players

  • F Scott Conway: 2 goals, 1 assist
  • D Luke Juha: 1 goal, 4 shots
  • G PJ Musico: 66 saves on 71 shots (Season: .932 SV%, 2.23 GAA)
Upcoming

Penn State will finish their regular season series against Ohio State (9-17-2, 4-10-0 Big Ten) when the Nittany Lions head to Columbus next weekend in a two game series Friday and Saturday. Last time out, Penn State took a 5-4 overtime loss and a 4-1 win in a home split back in the beginning of January.