Early power play goal fires up Golden Gophers
UNIVERSITY PARK – The whiteout at Pegula Ice Arena turned into a washout for the Penn State men’s hockey team.
Minnesota, the No. 1 team in the nation, played like it before a packed house and a national TV audience Monday night in a 5-2 defeat of the Nittany Lions in game two of the Big Ten home-opening series for Penn State.
With the win, the Golden Gophers improved to 15-2-3 overall and 5-0-1 in the Big Ten. Penn State fell to 4-12-1 on the season and remained winless in the conference at 0-4.
The game started exactly the way Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky didn’t want – an early penalty by Max Gardiner put Minnesota on the power play just 1:09 into the game.
The Gophers capitalized on the gift on a Travis Boyd wrister from the left faceoff dot at the 2:25 mark. Hudson Fasching and Mike Reilly had the assists. The goal was Boyd’s sixth of the year.
“We wanted to continue wehre we left of Sunday and one of the things we wanted to do was stay out of the box,” Gadowsky said. “It was a difficult penalty to take because we couldn’t get the puck out. Give them credit; they finished the opportunities we gave them.
“The whiteout was fantastic. We love playing in conditions like that. It’s awesome to play in front of the student body. They do such a fantastic job. We love playing in front of them. It wasn’t difficult, it was very motivating.”
Minnesota made it 2-0 late in the second when a Sam Warning slap shot from the right face-off dot went five-hole on Nittany Lion goalie Eamon McAdam (20 saves). The goal was Warning’s sixth of the season. Justin Kloos and Ben Marshall recorded the assists.
Warning got his second of the game and seventh of the year with 6:06 in the third. Michael Brodzinski fed a slick cross-ice pass to Warning, who backhanded it past McAdam stick side for the goal. Kloos recorded his second assist of the night for the Golden Gophers.
Adam Wilcox had a solid performance in net for Minnesota, saving 36-of-38 shots Penn State fired on goal. Minnesota became the first team in the Big Ten this year to sweep a road series.
“The road sweep is something we talked about since we had the first home sweep against Wisconsin on Thanksgiving,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “We got off to a good start both nights. Tonight we got the power-play goal. I thought Penn State played very well. They are a big, strong physical team and when they lean on you, they can eliminate you.
“They had a lot of shots in the dots and in the perimeter. (Wilcox) did a great job. I’m sure he would like to have those two late goals back, but he was solid in net for us. Penn State is an up and coming program with a great facility. The fan support here is terrific. This is going to be a nice rivalry.”
The Nittany Lions finally got on the board at 10:01 of the third when Kenny Brooks beat Wilcox glove side for the goal. David Glen assisted to make it 3-1. The goal was the second of the season for Brooks.
“I thought we did play better. We generated a lot more chances than last night,” Gadowsky said. “What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is we hit a crossbar, hit a post and we missed an open net on a rebound shot. I thought we generated some legitimate chances and I felt good about that.
“We are happy with our improvement and our performance, but not with the result. We are looking forward to getting them on their ice.”
Minnesota responded the way championship caliber teams do, scoring 17 seconds later on a Nate Conden goal, his third of the season, assisted by Warning and Marshall.
Penn State cut the deficit in half when Curtis Loik potted his third of the year with a wrister top shelf on the stick side of Wilcox. It was Loik’s third of the season with Luke Juha getting the assist.
“Our learning curve is pretty steep. We haven’t even played a full season of Big Ten games yet. I like to think we can make a few more adjustments and improve even more,” Gadowsky said. “We are growing and maturing as the season moves along. We are a tougher team mentally right now then we were before Minnesota. Any time you can play the top team in the nation and you play them hard and honest, I think you can grow.”
Kloos closed out the scoring for the Golden Gophers with an empty netter in 19:54 for his eighth of the season. Boyd and Condon assisted.
Warning and Kloos had three-point nights to lead Minnesota on the scoresheet. Loik led the Nittany Lions with two points.
“I try to get off four or five shots per game. That didn’t happen last night, but tonight I got a chance to open up my game,” Warning said. “It was nice to get the road sweep. Penn State is a good team. They played us tough. It was a goal of ours to get the sweep on the road and we did it.”
Penn State out-shot Minnesota 38-25. The Nittany Lions travel to Michigan State on Friday.