Gophers win both games of opener
Editor’s note: The Penn State men’s ice hockey game on Thursday appears in today’s paper with Friday’s game to follow due to a late start time on Thursday.
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The No. 10 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions dropped their opening game of the 2020-21 season on the road at No. 11 Minnesota on Thursday night as the Gophers secured the 4-1 victory at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After a scoreless first period, Minnesota opened the scoring at 5:22 of the middle frame as Jonny Sorenson jammed home a loose puck out front for the 1-0 score.
Another bouncing puck found the stick of Scott Reedy in the slot and he ripped a shot over the glove of junior net-minder Oskar Autio (Espoo, Finland) for the 2-0 edge midway through the second period.
Sophomore Kevin Wall cut the deficit in half late in the second period using some silky mitts after receiving a perfect pass from classmate Connor McMenamin to beat Gopher goaltender Jack LaFontaine past the glove at 19:33 of the stanza.
Minnesota regained the two-goal margin early in the third period as Cullen Munson slipped the puck past the right pad of Autio after the puck bounced hard off the end wall for the 3-1 lead at 3:53 of the frame.
The Gophers extended the lead as Sampo Ranta burned the Nittany Lion defense and carried the puck from his backhand to his forehand sliping it past the far pad of Autio for the 4-1 advantage at 10:43 of the third period.
Autio played well between the pipes stopping numerous odd-man rushes throughout the night making 24 saves overall, but falls to 0-1-0 on the year while LaFontaine improves to 1-0-0 after stopping 26-of-27 shots.
The victory for LaFontaine is the first of his career against the Nittany Lions as he improves to 1-3-1 all-time against Penn State.
Minnesota held the slim 28-27 edge in the shot department while going 0-for-2 on the powerplay. Penn State was 0-for-3 with the man-advantage. The Gophers controlled the dot winning 37-of-55 faceoffs on the night.
Wall now has a two-game goal scoring streak and has scored all three of his career goals against the Gophers. Penn State drops to 5-3-1 all-time in season openers and 5-3-0 in Big Ten openers. Minnesota takes the slim 16-15-1 lead in the all-time series.
PENN STATE 2
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. –The No. 10 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions fought hard down to the final horn, but couldn’t secure the equalizer as No. 11 Minnesota earned the series sweep with a 3-2 victory in Big Ten Conference action on Friday afternoon from 3M Arena at Mariucci. Penn State falls to 0-2-0 to start the year while Minnesota improves to 2-0-0.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Minnesota opened the scoring for the second-consecutive night with an early powerplay goal as Scott Reedy redirected the puck through the five-hole of freshman goaltender Liam Souliere with just one second remaining on the man-advantage for the 1-0 score at 4:35 of the first period.
The Nittany Lions brought the game even taking advantage of a 3-on-1 rush as freshman Jared Westcott fed classmate Christian Sarlo and he ripped a shot past the glove of Gopher net-minder Jack LaFontaine for the 1-1 score at 17:31 of the first period.
The Gophers regained the one-goal lead heading into the first intermission as Sammy Walker got behind the defense and beat Souliere past the glove with less than a second remaining in the frame.
Minnesota extended their lead midway through the second period with another powerplay tally as Brannon McManus faked a pass and ripped a wrister from the slot over the glove of Souliere for the 3-1 advantage at 13:28 of the stanza.
Penn State cut the deficit to a single goal early in the third period as sophomore Kevin Wall took the puck from behind his own net and skated the length of the ice flicking a backhand shot inside the near post and past LaFontaine for the 3-2 score at 4:41 of the frame.
Souliere looked good in his first collegiate start but falls to 0-1-0 on the year after stopping 24-of-27 shots. LaFontaine improves to 2-0-0 on the year after a 34-save performance.
Penn State held the commanding 36-27 edge in shots but went 0-for-3 on the man-advantage including two missed opportunities in the third period. The Gophers were 2-for-3 on the powerplay for the game.
The Nittany Lions were also much stronger on faceoffs tonight winning 30 while the Gophers won 32.
Wall extends his career-best goal scoring streak to three games and has scored all four of his career goals against the Gophers. Wall’s two goals this season in two games match his entire 2019-20 total from 26 games.
Minnesota extends its lead in the all-time series to 17-15-1. The Gophers had 18 blocked shots to Penn State’s 16.
Penn State makes the quick trip to Madison over the weekend for a pair of games next Monday and Tuesday evening against No. 14 Wisconsin before returning home to Pegula Ice Arena for a mid-week set against Michigan at the beginning of December to open the 2020-21 home slate.