Friday Victory Sets Up ‘Win-and-Stay-Home’ Saturday Scenario for Penn State
State College, PA – Coming into the weekend, the Minnesota Gophers only needed one point on the road at Penn State to secure home ice positioning for the first round of the Big Ten playoffs.
After Friday’s 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Nittany Lions, the Gophers (19-14-2 Overall, 10-11-2 B1G) may be dreading the fact that another PSU win Saturday means that Minnesota would be headed back out to Happy Valley to take on the Nittany Lions (15-13-5, 8-10-5) in the first round.
Penn State likes to shoot from everywhere, and that was certainly on display Friday night. The Nittany Lions had 21 shots in the first period and 26 shots in the second, while laying back with ‘only’ 14 in the third for a grand total of 61 shots on goal in the game.
The Gophers, on the other hand, only mustered 15 shots for the contest, and it was pretty clear that the shot tally indicated who the better team was on the night. Penn State was fast, relentless, and won all the puck battles, while Minnesota looked slow and on their back foot the entire 60 minutes of play.
PSU opened up a lead at 8:13 of the first period, when a seeing-eye shot from the point beat Gopher goalie Mat Robson. The Gophers responded at 12:22 when a seeing-eye shot of their own was tipped by both Casey Mittelstadt and Leon Bristedt on its way into the Penn State net. Bristedt was ultimately credited with the goal, his 98th career point as a Gopher.
Penn State scored on a 2-on-1 at 10:31 of the second to re-take the lead at 2-1, and they’d never give it up, scoring three more times in the third to win by a 5-1 margin.
The Penn State win sets up a dramatic final day of the Big Ten regular season. Wisconsin’s loss to Ohio State Friday locks the Gophers into no worse than 5th place. The scenarios are as follows:
- If Minnesota loses Saturday, they play Penn State at Penn State next weekend in the first round of the conference tournament.
- If Wisconsin does not win Saturday against Ohio State, they’ll lock in sixth place and will play Michigan. Wisconsin can move into fifth place with a win and a PSU regulation loss. In this scenario, Wisconsin would travel to Mariucci to take on the Gophers in the first round.
- If Minnesota gets at least one point Saturday, they will play at Mariucci for the first round of the B1G Tourney and could end up playing either Penn State (with any number of points or with a Wisconsin loss/tie), or Wisconsin (UW win + PSU loss).
The Gophers look to right the ship and clinch home ice Saturday night. The game is at 6PM Central time, and can be seen on BTN, streamed on BTN2Go, and heard on AM1130.