Golden Gophers Down Nittany Lions in Season Opener

Story posted November 20, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Christopher Hess

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The No. 10 Nittany Lions fell to No. 11 Minnesota 4-1 in the first game of the 2020-2021 season at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis Thursday night.

Both sides came out flying from the jump, as physical play highlighted a first period where shots came early and often.

Christian Sarlo had an opportunity to get the Nittany Lions on the board about two minutes into the first on a deflection, but the puck bounced in front of Minnesota netminder Jack LaFontaine and he swept it away with his pad.

Minnesota had two quality opportunities in particular that could have gotten the Gophers on the board, but Oskar Autio stood tall in net and robbed Brannon McManus and Scott Reedy to keep the score deadlocked after the first period.

The second period proved to be a different story as the Gophers began to flex their muscles and overwhelm a young Penn State team.

At 5:01 of the second period, Brannon McManus rang a shot off of the goalpost and then Jonny Sorenson picked up a rebound in a net-mouth scramble at 5:22 to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.

Just a few moments later, Scott Reedy took advantage of a Penn State turnover in its own zone and the Gophers then took a 2-0 lead at 10:16 of the second period.

Penn State started to get its offense going late in the period with strong chances courtesy of Tim Doherty and Alex Stevens, but LaFontaine held his ground and shut the door.

Kevin Wall was able to get the Nittany Lions on the scoresheet at 19:33 as he beat LaFontaine on a tic-tac-toe play from Connor McMenamin and Evan Bell as the second period ended with the Gophers leading 2-1.
The third period then became the dagger as Bob Motzko’s troops tightened up the defensive approach and the Nittany Lions had little room to operate.

Cullen Munson was able to squeak the puck past Autio at 3:53 of the third period to give Minnesota another two-goal lead at 3-1 and it was a lead that would not be relinquished.

A turnover by Penn State in the offensive zone eventually led to another goal as Sampo Ranta picked up the puck with a full head of steam and danced past Christian Berger, which then gave Minnesota a 4-1 lead.

Penn State gained the offensive zone just a handful of times in the last few minutes of the third period but the Minnesota defense proved to be too strong.

Scott Reedy and Matt Staudacher each had two points a-piece for Minnesota and Jack LaFontaine was able to stop 27 out of 28 shots.

The Gophers were also able to capitalize in the blocked shots and faceoffs won categories as they won those battles 24-15 and 37-18 respectively.

The two sides will face off again tomorrow at 4 p.m. on the Big Ten Network as the Nittany Lions will look to equalize the series.

Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email christopherhess22@gmail.com.