State College, PA – Just one weekend ago, Minnesota fought back from two third-period deficits in South Bend to steal five of six points from Notre Dame.
A week later, the tables turned.
Despite being vastly outshot and generally outplayed, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (14-12-6 Overall, 9-7-6-4 B1G) found themselves with one-goal third-period leads both Friday and Saturday against the Penn State Nittany Lions (20-10-4, 12-8-4-1). This time, it was the Gophers’ turn to give up those leads, coughing up the game both Friday and Saturday to only come away with one point on the weekend.
While Minnesota could have all but put their names on the league trophy with a split or better, they still have a chance to claim at least a share of the league title. Penn State is idle at 41 points, and Minnesota and Ohio State (vs Wisconsin) are tied at 37. Notre Dame (vs Michigan State) is fourth at 35, the only other team with a chance to win a piece of the title. The first tiebreaker is league wins, which both PSU (12) and OSU (11) have over the Gophers.
In order to claim a share of the title, Minnesota will need to get to at least 41 points (four points this weekend) as well as at worst match Ohio State’s weekend. In order for the Gophers to get the #1 overall seed in the Big Ten tournament, they’ll need to get at least 5 points and hope Wisconsin can take some points from the Buckeyes.
In a game with zero penalties Friday, Jack LaFontaine came up huge for the Gophers, stopping 54 of 57 shots to eke out a tie. LaFontaine was great Saturday, too, turning aside 39 of 42 shots in a losing effort.
Friday, the Gophers took the lead with just under 8 minutes left in the third, but Penn State scored with just over 5 minutes left to tie it. Saturday, Minnesota built a 2-0 first period lead, and watched as the Nittany Lions slowly chipped away, with one goal in the second and two goals just 31 seconds apart in the middle of the third to tie the game and grab a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Gophers sit 14th in the current PairWise rankings, firmly on the bubble of the NCAA tournament. They probably need at least one win this weekend to keep the hope alive of an at-large bid. Another reason the loss on Saturday hurt so much – a win against a solid PWR team like Penn State would have put Minnesota in a much better position for an NCAA tournament bid.
Watch as the Gophers try to make it back to the tournament – and try to win a league title in the process. Friday is a 7:30 puck drop, while Saturday is at 5PM. Friday’s contest is on BTN and can be streamed on the Fox Sports app, while Saturday will be on Fox Sports North and streamed on the Fox Sports Go app.