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Minnesota Fights Back on Saturday to Split Series with Penn State

Goldy skating Matt Christians/SBN College Hockey

MINNEAPOLIS – Even-strength play has been holding the Minnesota Golden Gophers back in recent weeks.

So naturally, it was even-strength play that helped the Gophers to play one of their more complete games of the season and get an important conference series split.

Four different Minnesota players had 5-on-5 goals and Mat Robson had a stellar 31-save performance to lift the Gophers to a 4-1 victory over the 9th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

“That was our best game start-to-finish with our entire lineup,” said Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko. “Just a real solid hockey game tonight.”

Minnesota did come out of the gates slow, not managing to get a shot on PSU goaltender Peyton Jones (23 saves) until after five minutes of game clock and a power play went by. The Nittany Lions then scored first as Chase Berger buried one from out front. That seemed to wake the Gophers up, however, as they increased their pressure on the other end, and after a series a chances by the first line, defenseman Tyler Nanne found the puck in the left circle and went top-shelf to tie the game at 1.

As part of a second period dominated by the Gophers, Brent Gates and Jack Ramsey each had highlight-reel goals, and Robson complemented his teammates with some nice saves on the limited opportunities that the Nittany Lions had.

“I really liked the second period,” Motzko said. “We really started to take control.”

Rem Pitlick finished things off with an empty-net goal in the final seconds.

After giving his thoughts on the win, Motzko had a few words to say about his good friend Mike Hastings and the United States World Juniors hockey team, which fell to Finland in the gold medal game in heartbreaking fashion.

“What a job that they did to medal four years in a row,” he said.

Penn State goes back home to host Michigan State in a two-game Big Ten series next weekend, while Minnesota heads to Notre Dame.

Scoring summary:

First period:

PSU goal at 12:36: Chase Berger (7). Assisted by Brandon Biro (8).

MINN goal at 15:55: Tyler Nanne (2). Assisted by Ryan Zuhlsdorf (2) and Rem Pitlick (10).

Second period:

MINN goal at 7:49: Brent Gates (8). Assisted by Pitlick (11).

MINN goal at 17:24: Jack Ramsey (2). Assisted by Ryan Norman (2) and Tommy Novak (8).

Third period:

MINN empty-net goal at 19:49: Pitlick (9). Assisted by Gates (7) and Tyler Sheehy (10).

Power plays: PSU 0-1, MINN 0-2.

Shots on goal: PSU 32, MINN 27.