Penn State Men’s Hockey Preview: Minnesota

Story posted February 17, 2022 in Sports, CommRadio by Alex Rocco

Penn State will look to finish its season on a high note this week.

After a week off, the blue and white return to Pegula Ice Arena Friday to face-off against the No. 5 Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Coach Guy Gadowsky and his squad look to turn things around after losing their last three contests.

“We believe that we have a team that, when we put together our game, is really, really good,” Gadowsky said. “We believe that if we can put our game together consistently — we can make a run.”

The two teams matched up earlier in the season in Minnesota with the series resulting in a split.

The Nittany Lions won the opening game of the series 5-3 and they had 11 different players record a point.

The game was tied heading into the third period but goals from sophomore forwards Christian Sarlo and Chase McLane gave the blue and white a lead it would never relinquish.

However, the second game was a different story with the Golden Gophers coming away with a 4-2 victory after three goals in the third period.

The Nittany Lions were hit with a massive loss during their series against Notre Dame with McLane suffering a lower-body injury that will keep him out of the lineup for the rest of the campaign.

Gadowsky mentioned that it will be a team effort to replace the loss of McLane.

“He is one of our top face-off men, who was always a guy you rely on to play against the other top line and he also can produce on the powerplay,” Gadowsky said. “The impact is more throughout the team rather than just one guy calling in to fix the spot.”

Along with his ability to play on the penalty kill, he also possesses the skill to play on the power play.

The Trenton, Michigan, native finished with 13 points on the season and was fifth on the team in assists.

Freshman forward Carson Dyck will likely take the place of McLane in the lineup.

Dyck, who hasn't played since Feb. 4, has eight points on the campaign.

An area where Penn State has struggled is taking penalties, as it committed seven penalties in its losses against Notre Dame.

The Nittany Lions have seven players this campaign with at least 20 minutes spent in the box.

Senior defender Paul DeNaples is confident that the team can commit fewer penalties in their last series of the year.

“We were doing really good, and then we got away from it,” DeNaples said. “It's easy to refresh that — we just got to readdress that situation. But I’m not too concerned about this weekend for that.”

The Golden Gophers have converted on 17 percent of their powerplay chances but they have the 11th ranked offense in the nation averaging 3.4 goals per game.

Minnesota has five players over 20 points on the season, with senior forward Blake McLaughlin leading the team with 27 points.

The Golden Gophers were hit with a major blow losing three players to the Olympics.

Junior forward Ben Meyers, freshman forward Matthew Knies and sophomore defender Brock Faber are all in Beijing for the games.

Minnesota experienced a change in net during this campaign with Jack LaFontaine signing with Carolina and now junior goalie Justen Close is the starter.

Close has a 7-3-0 record with a .924 save percentage and a 1.91 goals against average.

Fifth-year senior Clayton Phillips and former Golden Gopher mentioned that consistency and frame of mind for the main factors of defeating his previous team.

“We just need to make sure we show up with the right mentality both nights and stick to the game plan,” Phillips said. “If we do that, then all this all the chips fall into place.”

Prediction: Series split

Alex Rocco is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email afr5646@psu.edu