Penn State vs. Minnesota: Game Grades
It was a vital series for the Nittany Lions and at the very least; they had to walk away with a tie. That’s exactly what they did splitting a two game series with the Minnesota Golden Gophers this past weekend. After losing the first game 4-1, Penn State bounced back for their first one in Mariucci Arena with a 5-3 victory.
The lethal Penn State offense we saw earlier this season is certainly on a rough stretch. Combined this series, the Nittany Lions only tallied 61 total shots, a number they were nearing each game earlier this season. Whether it’s because they’re facing better teams or have switched to a more defensive approach, the high-powered Nittany Lion offense that was the top in the nation is starting to fade.
The defense bounced back after a tough Michigan series to put an end to the four-game skid. Luke Juha continues to shine, recording six blocks in the series, five of which came in the second game. It seems like this unit is starting to focus more on the smaller things, like the poke checks and blocking pucks that eventually lead to the big wins. In the first game, as a team, the Nittany Lions combined to block 16 shots certainly helping Matthew Skoff, although it was in a losing effort. The strong defensive play held Hudson Fasching, who sits in fourth for points in the Big Ten, to just two points.
Minnesota undoubtedly has a strong squad full of sharp shooters, and both played fairly well. Matthew Skoff made 39 saves on 43 shots and Eamon McAdam made 34 saves on 37 shots. But, at this point in the season, it seems like there are two different Nittany Lion teams skating out on the ice each night. With Skoff, it’s clearly a more defensive minded team. For example, this weekend with him in net, they blocked 16 shots while with McAdam in net, only four shots were blocked. With McAdam, it looks as if the team has more trust in him and feels freer to go all out on the offensive side of the ice. I don’t know that you could make McAdam the full time starter this late in the regular season, but you have to believe it has popped into coach Guy Gadowsky’s mind at least once recently.
Special Teams: A
Through the series, Penn State only allowed one powerplay goal in nine opportunities and was one for four when they were on the man advantage. If Penn State’s special team’s unit can keep playing like this, that might be the key for them in making a run at the Big Ten championship. It’ll take powerplay scoring to power past a strong and fast team like Michigan and will also take big stops on the penalty kill to keep them in the game.
Saturday’s win was possibly the biggest win of the season for this Nittany Lion team and Gadowsky proved his team doesn’t give up. In a crucial series, after two devastating losses to the Wolverines, there was no question his team needed to respond, and taking one of two from a powerful Minnesota team is no small task.
Brandon Pelter is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism and finance. To contact him, email email@example.com.