Pitlick’s OT Winner Caps Thrilling Gopher Sweep

Kloos’ goal with 3.5 seconds remaining sends game to overtime

Gophers hold three-point lead in B1G standings

State College, PA – The University of Minnesota’s moniker is the Golden Gophers, but this year’s edition of the Men’s hockey team is looking to go by a new name: Comeback Kids.

Down 2-0 early in the second period, the Gophers (20-8-2 Overall, 11-3-0 B1G) fought back to claw out a victory after trailing once again, beating the Penn State Nittany Lions (18-8-2, 7-6-1) by a 4-3 margin.  A last-second goal by captain Justin Kloos forced overtime, and Rem Pitlick’s fourth goal of the series sealed the win for Minnesota.

Penn State was on the board early in the first, when slick Russian freshman Denis Smirnov lasered a wrister past Eric Schierhorn to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead at 3:17.

PSU stretched their lead to two-goals with another early-period goal in the second, as David Goodwin’s shallow angle shot beat Schierhorn to the far-side at 2:43 of the middle frame.

The Gophers finally got on the board at 5:08 of the third.  Vinni Lettieri fed a pass into the crease to find an offensively-minded Jake Bischoff who had streaked up the center of the ice and into the play.  Bischoff deposited the puck into the back of the empty net to pull the Gophers within one at 2-1.

Tyler Sheehy’s sniped wrist shot from the high slot tied the game at 2-2 with just over two minutes remaining in the period, and it looked like overtime was imminent at that point.

However, a Denis Smirnov rush at 18:34 resulted in a Ryan Lindgren hooking call and a Penn State penalty shot.  Smirnov beat Schierhorn five-hole to give the Nittany Lions a 3-2 lead with just 86 seconds remaining in the game.

The Gophers pulled Schierhorn for an extra attacker, and buzzed around the net in the final minute but were unable to get anything past PSU’s Peyton Jones.  Penn State cleared their offensive zone but fired the puck down the ice with just seven seconds remaining, and Minnesota called timeout to draw up a play for the offensive-zone faceoff.

Taylor Cammarata tied up the faceoff, which gave Justin Kloos enough time to grab the puck from the scrum and fire a shot from the circle that beat PSU’s Jones and tied the game at 3-3 with just 3.5 seconds left on the clock.

In the overtime, Vinni Lettieri drew a tripping penalty, but Minnesota was unable to capitalize on the man-advantage.  At 3:28 of the overtime, with the Gophers rushing the puck into the Penn State zone, Rem Pitlick’s fluttering wrist shot from the top of the circle floated past everyone and into the back of the net to give Minnesota an important – if improbable – 4-3 victory.

The pair of wins are enormous for Minnesota in the B1G standings.  The Gophers now hold double-digit point leads over Penn State (11 points) and Ohio State (10 points), and lead second-place Wisconsin by three points heading into a huge weekend tilt in Minneapolis against the Badgers next weekend.  At least one win next weekend should put Minnesota in the driver’s seat for their sixth-straight regular season conference championship.

The series was also a big one for the Gophers to keep pace in the PairWise Rankings.  With no other team in the top 8 of the PWR losing this weekend, two wins against a good PSU team were good enough to keep the Gophers in fourth place overall in the rankings, good enough for a #1 regional seed if the season were to end today.

Saturday’s game marked yet another come-from-behind victory for Minnesota.  It feels like this Gopher team has no quit in them, and the numbers bear that out.  The Maroon and Gold has laced up the skates 30 times thus far this season.  In fully half of those games, Minnesota’s opponents have scored the game’s first goal.  The Gophers are 9-5-1 when their opponents score first.

Minnesota has trailed after one period in seven of 30 games and is 4-2-1 in those contests.  The Gophers are 3-5-0 when trailing after two, 4-6-2 when having trailed by two or more goals in a game, and 2-3-0 when having trailed by three or more goals in a game.  This Gopher team has won 40% of the games that they’ve trailed by three or more goals at some point during the game, and has tied or won 50% of the games that they’ve trailed by two or more.  That is remarkable.

The Gophers look to continue their winning ways next weekend as they play host to the Wisconsin Badgers.  Both games are 7PM starts and can be seen on FSN+, streamed on BTN2Go and Fox Sports Go, and heard on the radio at AM1500.

Go Gophers!

Notes:

Rem Pitlick’s winning goal was his 10th of the season.  The Gophers now have seven players with double-digit goals: Pitlick and Szmatula (10), Bristedt (11), Gates (14), Lettieri (15), Kloos (16) and Sheehy (18)

Tyler Sheehy’s 1G-1A performance puts him on 46 points for the season (18-28), good for 8th overall in the nation.

The Gopher power play went scoreless, snapping an eight-game scoring streak.  Minnesota’s PP is fourth nationally at 26.87%.

Minnesota’s penalty kill was perfect on the night, successfully killing about 10 minutes of Penn State PP time, including 1:14 of 5-on-3.  The Gopher PK is middle of the pack nationally, 25th at 83.6%.

About Chris Eckes 105 Articles
Gopher Hockey fan since birth. Avid golfer. Fantasy Sports enthusiast.

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