State College, PA – With a chance to sweep the Nittany Lions and gain some momentum leading into the holiday break, the Gophers shot themselves in the foot Saturday night. Costly turnovers resulted in three of Penn State’s five non-empty net goals in a 6-3 loss.
After stealing the game Friday night, Minnesota (8-5-3 Overall (2-0 OT), 3-4-1-2 B1G) found itself on its heels again early, as Penn State (9-5-3 (0-0), 2-3-1) scored twice near the middle of the first period about a minute apart to take a 2-0 lead.
The Nittany Lions extended their lead to 3-0 midway through the second. Late in the middle frame, Aaron Huglen received a five-minute major and game misconduct for a check from behind, but the Gophers took advantage of the PSU opportunity, as Rhett Pitlick scored his eighth goal of the season shorthanded off of a nice pass from Jimmy Clark at 19:30 to draw within two at 3-1. The junior winger has now scored in six-straight games.
The Gophers pressed to get closer in the third, but turnovers did them in. Penn State scored at the 10-minute mark off of a missed pass at the Gopher blueline. Then less than a minute after Jimmy Snuggerud scored at 14:35 to get back within two at 4-2, Justen Close turned the puck over to a PSU defender who scored to make it 5-2.
Minnesota did not give up, pulling Close on a late powerplay while Bryce Brodzinski scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season to pull back within two goals at 5-3. The Gophers would not score again, and Penn State tacked on an empty netter in the final seconds to complete the 6-3 scoreline.
Minnesota travels to Columbus next weekend to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes have had a tough start in Big Ten play this year, earning just two points in their eight conference games so far. It’s an important series for the Gophers to get six points out of before the month-long holiday break.