Golden Gophers Sweep Nittany Lions To Begin Season
The No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers were able to complete the two-game sweep over No. 10 Penn State with a narrow 3-2 win on Friday night at Mariucci Arena.
Freshman goalie Liam Soulière got the nod between the pipes for Guy Gadowsky’s team and was tested as soon as the puck was dropped.
The Gophers gained a man advantage early courtesy of an Evan Bell slash that led to Scott Reedy tucking the puck past Soulière with one second left on the power play to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead at 4:34 of the first period.
As the period progressed, Penn State began to invade the offensive zone with flying colors with Tyler Gratton peppering Jack LaFontaine and Long Island native Christian Sarlo eventually burying the biscuit at 17:31 tying the score at one.
But the Gophers weren’t finished in the first. Sammy Walker ripped a shot past Soulière with less than a second remaining giving Minnesota a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
The first-half of the second period was rather quiet for both sides as neither team had any real offensive opportunities alongside a few penalties sprinkled in.
One of those penalties led to a Gophers goal as Brannon McManus took advantage of a Tyler Gratton boarding penalty going high glove on Soulière at 13:28 of the second period giving the Gophers a 3-1 lead.
Minnesota’s offense began to overwhelm the Penn State defense, but the Nittany Lions did not falter.
Ben Meyers almost made it a 4-1 game but Soulière made a number of acrobatic saves to keep the deficit at two with one period left to play.
The third period provided an opportunity for Penn State to get itself back into the game, and the Nittany Lions did just that early on in the final frame.
Kevin Wall notched another goal against Minnesota with a nifty backhand shot that squeaked past LaFontaine and the Nittany Lions were within one goal at the 4:41 mark of the third.
Then from that point on, Minnesota’s defense became a tough code to crack for the Nittany Lion offense and the Gophers began to play the games of puck possession and clock management.
Bob Motzko’s team began to use a neutral-zone trap, similar to what Ohio State runs, for the last 15 minutes and the Gophers were able to hang on for a 3-2 win.
Penn State pulled Soulière with just over a minute to play but it didn’t make a difference as the Gophers went all out in bleeding the final seconds off of the clock.
The Nittany Lions did far better in the faceoffs won and shots blocked categories, but still lost those battles 32-30 and 18-16 respectively.
Minnesota had shot totals of 28 and 27 in the two-game sweep, but had much higher quality chances as compared to Penn State’s and shot at a 13 percent clip (7 goals on 55 shots).
Penn State returns to the ice on Monday Nov. 23 and Tuesday Nov. 24 in Madison for an early week tilt with Wisconsin.
Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.