I'd apologize for using the cliche "speed kills"because it's the same thing every player has prefaced before saying "we have to take it one game at a time" or "this is the most important weekend" so let's get around it by just pointing out a key difference in Friday's game. The Gophers utilized the speed of its team and was able to limit one of Penn State's strengths in a 5-0 win.
In Minnesota's case Friday, the Gophers' speed created quite a few opportunities early. On each of the first three goals, plays were made by out-skating Nittany Lions defensemen to set the play in action, something that the team was really unable to do at Pegula Arena last month. It culminated with a 10 minute stretch in the first period where Minnesota out-shot PSU 10-0.
By the end of the first period Minnesota had Penn State players skating off the ice with their heads down. The Gophers held the high-shooting Nittany Lions to six shots in the opening period and a season-low 18 in the game.
Still, despite the lack of quantity one of those shots was a quality one that could have changed the course of the game. Penn State, which scored the first goal in both games against Minnesota last month, had a 2 on 1 with Scott Conway and Eric Scheid rushing down the ice and the game scoreless. Scheid's shot was saved by Adam Wilcox making a big left to right move to get over to the post.
"I initially thought he was going to shoot it because he kind of had a lane there. Fortunately I got over there and got a stick on it. and I think our D played it well," he said about the play, which kept his 12th career shutout intact. "I think (Conway) had a sauce over on the D's stick (to Scheid).
"After that we didn't give up too many chances and you have to give our team credit for that."
If that's not enough - and you are reading this article, so it probably isn't - here are 3 more thoughts on last night's 5-0 win that aren't Scott Conway-related. Between the video and suspension, we've said all there is about that action.
1. Justin Kloos accomplishes a year long goal
Kloos' goal in the first period was his 12th of the year and one that has been a long time coming.
Several times this season the sophomore has tried to pull of a wraparound goal. None have been successful until he was able to take advantage of Penn State goalie Eamon McAdam being out of position.
"It was nice. You don't score on it often," he said. "A lot of time it is just getting the puck to net, a scrum and anything can happen. But I know I saw McAdam - he was holding the strong side post really tight - and I knew if I got to the other side of the net quick enough I would have a shot at scoring."
Maybe it helps that Kloos is familiar with McAdam. The two along with Taylor Cammarata were teammates in juniors with the Waterloo Black Hawks.
By the way, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said after the game that PJ Musico would get the start over McAdam on Saturday. Musico started both games against Minnesota in Penn State.
2. The top line pulls through
Minnesota limits shots and shuts out Penn State
After being honored pregame, Gopher head coach Don Lucia's team went out and scored three first period goals en route to jumping into a first place tie in the Big Ten with Michigan.
You want your best playing at their best this time of season. Minnesota getting six points from its first line of Leon Bristedt, Kyle Rau and Hudson Fasching helps the team as it continues to fight for a Big Ten title and an NCAA Tournament berth. (The Gophers remain on the bubble being 13th in the Pairwise. At this point it is still hard to move up and stay out of a scenario where winning the Big Ten championship is needed. A loss Saturday on its own knocks Minnesota out of an at-large bid to 17th.) All three members of the trio scored a goal.
"It's March. We talked about your best players being your best players this time of year and they were tonight," Lucia said. "From Adam on out and Mike Reilly, you could tell he was on tonight."
It's good see Fasching get on the board and play one of his best games. At the same time, I've been impressed with Bristedt in the last month. All freshmen are going to make adjustments to the college game.In Bristedt's case, he has had to adjust to North America both on and off the ice. He's kept the edge that he had with Sweden in the World Juniors and played well on both ends, Meanwhile, Bristedt is also finding ways to gel and use his offense.
Early in the second period he had a play where he was near the net and tried to jam home a puck, instead getting saved and knocking off the net. It won't show up on the scoresheet, but is indicative of something that wouldn't happen in October.
"We just played well. (Penn State's) got some big D and Bristedt and Fasching were really good down low," Rau said. "I think that was a huge key for us and our entire line."
3. Minnesota's pregame Lucia ceremony was very classy
Before Friday's game former Gopher great Johnny Pohl presented head coach Don Lucia with a plaque for passing former Minnesota head coach Doug Woog for the most wins by a head coach in Gopher men's hockey history. It was great to see Pohl, whose 200 points are the most anyone has had in the Lucia Era. The ceremony as a whole was very classy and it was good to see Lucia honored on the ice along with his family.
Lucia, as he has throughout the lead up to getting win #391 last Friday against Ohio State, tried to put the focus away from himself. On this occasion he pointed out his assistant coaches and the sacrifices his wife and family has made throughout a long coaching career that includes stops in Alaska, Colorado and Minnesota.
"The family is there through the good times and the bad. Being a coaches' wife isn't easy. It's been pretty special for us in our lives," he said. "Very seldom have our kids missed a game and now you're getting to the age where our grandkids are getting to the games. It's always been a family deal."
Lucia also joked that for a while his wife was on pace to get a teaching certificate in every state in the union.
He wasn't the only coach who got a moment. Woog himself was honored during a stoppage in play for receiving the Cliff Thompson Award by the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association. He joined 1987 recipient John Mariucci as the only college coaches to be honored.
Saturday will also feature a pregame ceremony for the six seniors.
HM: Say what you want about the Big Ten, but it is really hard to win on the road in the conference. 3 teams have 2 or fewer losses at home this season. Even Ohio State, which went 7-9-0 at home, went 5-1 in its last 6 home games.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate