Minnesota dropped to third in the Big Ten standings after a disappointing weekend in University Park, Pennsylvania.
“We’ve got something in us. We can fight back, and we can score,” forward Brent Gates Jr. told reporters after Saturday's loss. “It’s just doing it consistently. It’s like we pick our spots when we want to, but we don’t necessarily want to enough.”
The Gophers (11-14-4, 8-9-3 Big Ten) were stagnant over the weekend, losing 7-2 in the first game before dropping the second 6-2 to Penn State on Friday and Saturday.
Minnesota held a lead for 58 total seconds during either game over the weekend. The short-lived lead came after forward Sammy Walker scored midway through the second period in the Saturday game, breaking a 1-1 tie. But Penn State (16-10-2, 8-9-1 Big Ten) came back less than a minute later and scored on the power play, which led to four more goals for the Nittany Lions, and the series sweep was completed. The two losses gave Penn State six conference points and Minnesota zero, making Michigan the new second-place team with 30 points. Ohio State has the clear lead in the Big Ten with 41 conference points and a 12-3-3 Big Ten record.
"We were in a great spot with taking the 2-1 lead, and then we take two, five, nine minutes of penalties," Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko told reporters about what sealed defeat in the second game. "The whole game changed at that point, and I mean there were some other things, but that was self inflicted wounds."
The Gophers took their worst loss of the season on Friday when the Nittany Lions scored five unanswered goals by 7:55 left on the clock in the second period. Gophers forward Tyler Sheehy responded by scoring two goals later in the game, but Minnesota lost 7-2 in the first game of the series. Minnesota gave up 90 total shots in the lackluster defensive weekend, where the Gophers were out-scored 13-4.
Minnesota defenseman Clayton Phillips, forward Rem Pitlick, Sheehy and Gates each tallied two points in the weekend series.
“We’ve definitely had a rough stretch. Really the only thing we can do right now is put our noses to the ground and get back to work,” Phillips told reporters. “No one is hanging their heads. We believe in this group.”
Minnesota has two more Big Ten series left to try to hold on to a home ice advantage when the Big Ten conference tournament comes around starting March 8. The Gophers will need to maintain a seed of 2-4 to have a home series at 3M Arena at Mariucci during the first weekend of the Big Ten tournament. Winning the tournament is likely the only way Minnesota can get into the NCAA tournament as all six conference conference champions get a berth. Minnesota will play Ohio State in another away series on Friday and Saturday.