That’s one way to bounce back from a long winless streak.
After snapping the streak against Michigan State last weekend, who really knew how good this Penn State team is? It has beat some good teams and lost to bad ones, leaving it right on the playoff bubble and in the middle of the Big Ten standings. To bolster its postseason resume, it needed to make a statement against Minnesota. The Nittany Lions, uh, did just that.
Penn State got the dream start it needed, outshooting Minnesota 8-0 in the first five minutes. Halfway through the first period, the momentum paid off when James Robinson tipped home a Kris Myllari shot. Of course, because it’s the 2017-18 Penn State hockey team, Minnesota responded and scored on its third shot of the game -- at the time, shots were 15-3, but the game was tied. The period ended with the Nittany Lions holding a 21-4 advantage in shots but the teams remained locked on the scoreboard.
Things stayed the same in the second, with Robson committing robberies in Minnesota’s net while the team in front of him was dominated. Halfway through the period, Nikita Pavlychev found Trevor Hamilton on a two-on-one and the senior defensemen tapped the puck into the empty net to finally retake the lead. Penn State continued pouring on the offense, including with a later-disallowed Nate Sucese goal, but Minnesota hung in and kept the deficit to one goal heading into the final frame.
So at the start of the third with every statistical advantage, the plan should be to not really change anything, right? Yet 14 seconds in, Andrew Sturtz was ejected for contact to the head, giving the Gophers a long powerplay. The Nittany Lions’ special teams came through and were rewarded with a Liam Folkes goal soon after the kill. Penn State and Minnesota traded some penalties and after they ended, Evan Barratt extended the lead to 4-1 and chased Robson from the net. Limoges added an exclamation point with a late goal and the final score was 5-1, with the Nittany Lions outshooting their foes by more than quadruple.
- Penn State would benefit a lot from a sweep this weekend and it’s halfway there. It’s two points behind Minnesota for the coveted fourth-place spot, meaning tomorrow’s game is winner-take-all.
- Not all shots are created equal but still...Penn State had 61 of them. That’s six shy of the program record and this was against one of the best teams in the country! What an incredible statement win.
- Evan Barratt stood out in a great way in the first two periods but in the third, man was he good. He got into some extracurriculars with Ryan Lindgren, one of the best defensemen in the conference, and both guys were sent to the penalty box. They kept jawing for two minutes, exited the boxes at the same time, then Barratt leveled him, picked up the puck, and went bar-down.
- The teams will rematch and finalize the Big Ten standings tomorrow. We’ll see you at 7 for the season finale and Senior Night.