State College, PA – When Penn State visited Mariucci Arena in early January, the Gophers held the nation’s top offense to just five goals over two games.
The Nittany Lions all but made up for that Friday evening in State College.
Penn State’s offense erupted for seven goals against the normally-stingy Gophers (11-13-4 Overall, 8-8-3 B1G), driving stalwart Mat Robson to the bench after giving up three goals in the first period.
The Nittany Lions (15-10-2, 7-9-1) average 4.63 goals per game, and they didn’t take long to get off on the right foot in this one. Liam Folkes scored his 13th of the season at 2:28, and although the next ten minutes of the period were fairly evenly played, the floodgates opened up just past the midway point of the period. Nate Sucese scored at 12:11 to make it 2-0, and Alex Limoges tacked on another just 60 seconds later to make it 3-0 Nittany Lions.
Coach Bob Motzko pulled goalie Robson after PSU’s third goal, and Eric Schierhorn tried to stop the bleeding as best he could. However, the Gophers couldn’t find a goal despite plenty of quality looks throughout the rest of the opening period, and Penn State came out firing in the second.
Cole Hults and Chase Berger both beat new Gopher goalie Eric Schierhorn with backdoor plays. Hults was first at 4:48, and Berger’s goal at 12:05 of the middle frame made the score 5-0 PSU.
Tyler Sheehy finally got the Gophers on the board with a powerplay goal at 13:57 to breathe some life back into Minnesota at 5-1, but Penn State scored again at 18:46 to increase their lead to 6-1 heading into the third.
Sheehy again tried to give the Gophers life with an early goal just 19 seconds into the third, but Minnesota could not mount any further comeback, and a late Brandon Biro goal sealed the deal at 7-2.
Amazingly, despite six even-strength goals against and only one for, the Gates-Pitlick-Sheehy line each finished the game plus-one, while Jack Sadek and Ryan Zuhlsdorf were even. Jack Ramsey, Ryan Norman, and Tyler Nanne were each a team-worst minus-four on the night.
Sheehy and Rem Pitlick are now tied for 6th in the national scoring race with 34 points each. They chase Michigan State’s Taro Hirose, whose 46 points is seven more than second-place Joseph Duszak of Merrimack. Pitlick is tied for third nationally in goals with 17, five behind Arizona State’s Johnny Walker. Pitlick does lead the Big Ten with 13 conference goals.
The up-and-down season continues Saturday night in Happy Valley as Minnesota will look to even the weekend series against Penn State. The Gophers have only swept their opponents or been swept in three series all year (Minnesota State, Michigan State, Notre Dame), so expect to see a better effort from the Maroon and Gold Saturday night.
The game starts at 5PM central time and can be seen on BTN, streamed on BTN2Go, and heard on AM1130 in the Twin Cities.