The Gophers were overpowered at home this weekend, falling in a pair home games to the then-No. 8 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions. Minnesota couldn't stop Penn State throughout the weekend, getting outscored 14-5. The sweep drops the Gophers to 4-6-2 on the season.
Penn State pours it on late, grabs 8-2 victory in the series opener
Having been denied an early goal in the first period, Penn State wasted no time getting on the board once the second got underway. They scored four goals in the middle frame, two of them coming just over a minute apart. Sam Sternschein got the scoring started for the Nittany Lions, and Kevin Wall followed up with his first goal of the season to put the Gophers to a quick two-goal deficit.
Penn State took a shot at every opportunity they could while preventing the Gophers from getting any momentum going the other way. The Gophers have struggled with preventing turnovers this season, and it plagued them once again from the start of the game, where turnovers created many of the opportunities for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State dominated the score sheet, putting the puck in the back of the net two more times before the Gophers were able to respond to make the game 4-1 following a goal from Jaxon Nelson 12:18 into the second period. Minnesota had a brief energy surge following that goal and was able to win a few face-offs and put up some shot attempts, but they were unable to add to their lone goal for the rest of the period.
Just as in the second period, the Penn State scored just moments after puck drop in the third period as Liam Folkes scored in 27 seconds to make it a 5-1 game. After that goal, it was clear that it was likely too late for a successful comeback. Minnesota took goaltender Jack LaFontaine out of the game and replaced him with freshman Justen Close. It seemed to make little difference to Penn State who was in net for Minnesota because they scored three more goals by the end of the night. Sampo Ranta, who had been one of the most active forwards for the Gophers, scored his third goal of the season halfway through the third period to put the score at 8-2, but head coach Bob Motzko said it was simply "too little too late."
Gopher start hot, fade late
Minnesota got off to a promising start after Friday's game, going up 2-0 on the Nittany Lions. After that, however, Penn State scored five unanswered goals to sweep the series with another high-scoring win, this time 6-3.
Penn State cut the lead in half behind a goal from Sternchein on the power play. Ranta added his second goal of the series to bring the lead back to two, but that was the last response the Gophers would be able to create.
Goals from Folkes and Nate Sucese had the game tied by the 12th minute of the second period, and the Nittany Lions returned to the final frame to score three more unanswered goals on Minnesota's Jared Moe, who posted a .806 save percentage on the night and made 25 saves. Penn State's high-octane offense lit the lamp all through the final frame, scoring in the beginning, middle and end minutes of the game. In the end, Minnesota couldn't get out of their own way, resulting in the team's second sweep of the season.
“The mistakes we made were glaring, and that’s too good of a hockey team to make those mistakes [against],” Motzko told the media. “Tip your hat to Penn State, they have an enormous amount of talent …those guys capitalized when they had the opportunity."
Minnesota will continue their home stand against border rival No. 16 Wisconsin on Friday, Nov. 22 at 7:00 p.m.