Friday, February 28, 2014

Gophers Steamroll Nittany Lions

Minneapolis - There are two ways a team can come out of a weekend off: sloppy, or rested.

The Gophers were a bit of both Friday night, struggling in the very early minutes of the first period before finding their legs and flattening the Penn State Nittany Lions 5-1 at Mariucci Arena.

Minnesota (22-4-5 Overall, 10-2-2-0 B1G) came into the game nursing a slender one point lead in the B1G standings with two games in hand over the Wisconsin Badgers, who are idle this weekend.  The Gophers could definitely use the points to regain their comfortable cushion in the league standings, and a dominating win tonight went a long way towards restoring that.

Penn State (6-21-2, 2-12-1-0) got an early powerplay in the first and capitalized, taking a 1-0 lead on a bungled Minnesota line change just 3:12 into the game.  Another bad change led to a 2-on-0 chance for PSU, but Adam Wilcox made a big save to keep Minnesota within striking distance at 1-0 down.

Early on in the period, head coach Don Lucia was shuffling the lines due to the absence of Tom Serratore.  Serratore, who dressed for the game, left sometime in the first period.  Official ‘U’ sources say that Serratore left the game with an “upper body injury”, but that it was precautionary and he shouldn’t be out for too long.

The Gophers would tighten up and quickly turn the tables on the Nittany Lions, knotting the score at 1-1 just 7:55 into the period.  Mike Reilly intercepted a pass at the blueline before finding a streaking Sam Warning at the top of the right circle, who ripped a snapshot past PSU goalie Matthew Skoff and into the back of the net.

Minnesota would continue the scoring barrage minutes later, when Hudson Fasching popped the puck in after a few frenzied seconds in front of the Penn State net to put the Gophers ahead for good.  Minnesota would tack on another goal at 16:10 when Fasching, on a breakaway, somehow found Kyle Rau trailing just behind the play and passed it to him for an easy goal.  Nate Condon would get another puck across the line late in the first, but after review the goal was disallowed due to an early whistle by the referee.

Up 3-1 after one period, the Gophers would continue to press their advantage in the second.  Taylor Cammarata scored just 30 seconds into the period on the powerplay.  The next few minutes featured a bevy of penalties, with the Gophers taking four penalties and drawing two in just over a five minute stretch.  Minnesota would add to its lead on the penalty kill, with Nate Condon scoring the Gophers’ first shorthanded goal of the season unassisted at 12:30 of the frame to make the game 5-1.

Although the Gophers would have many chances throughout the rest of the second and the third, the Condon shorthanded goal would end the scoring, and Minnesota skated away with a 5-1 win and a 4 point lead in the B1G standings over Wisconsin.

The Gophers will look to complete the sweep of the Nittany Lions on Saturday night.  Minnesota will also honor its seniors before the last home game of the season.  The puck drops at 6PM, so get there early if you want to pay tribute to Gopher seniors Justin Holl, Jake Parenteau, Michael Shibrowski, Tom Serratore and Nate Condon.

Notes & Quotes

3 Stars of the Game: 3) Adam Wilcox (30 Saves), 2) Mike Reilly (2 assists), 1) Hudson Fasching (1 goal, 1 assist)

Final Shots on Goal: Minnesota 36, Penn State 31.  Attempted shots were 68-46 in favor of the Gophers.

Other Gopher Point-Getters: Travis Boyd (2a), Kyle Rau (1g), Sam Warning (1g), Nate Condon (1g), Taylor Cammarata (1g), Ben Marshall (1a)

Specialty Teams: Gophers 1-3 on the powerplay, Penn State 1-5

The win moves the Gophers to 35 points in the B1G standings, 4 ahead of Wisconsin’s 31 and 10 ahead of Michigan’s 25.  Wisconsin can max out at 43 points if they win out, so the Gophers can clinch at least a share of the B1G title with eight more points.  Nine points (three non-shootout wins) will clinch the league title outright.

Gopher head coach Don Lucia, on the success of the first line: “The Rau line was good tonight, it’s good to see them get going.”  On tonight’s goal scorers: “The guys we need to score scored goals tonight.  At the end of the year you need your best players to score.” On Tom Serratore’s injury: “He was dinged up tonight. We’ll see how he’s feeling tomorrow and go from there.”  On whether senior goalie Michael Shibrowski will play on Senior Night tomorrow night: "There's a good chance of it."

Hudson Fasching, on the Rau breakaway goal: “Yeah, I actually saw him out of the corner of my eye. I was on my off hand so I didn’t really have a shot, so I passed it to him and I guess it worked out pretty well.”

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