Gophers Earn Big Win Over Penn State 4-1
Cammarata #1 Star with GWG and an Assist
Minneapolis, MN - What a difference a week can make.
After a disappointing, winless weekend at the North Star College Cup, the Gophers (14-12-0 Overall, 9-2-0 B1G) rode the best game of the year from Taylor Cammarata, along with a fair number of excellent saves by Eric Schierhorn, to earn a hard-fought 4-1 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions (16-8-3, 6-5-0) Friday night.
The win, combined with a Friday Michigan overtime loss against Michigan State, propelled Minnesota into first place alone in the B1G standings.
"We like to play offensive hockey and so do they," said forward Leon Bristedt after the game. "There were chances both ways."
The Gophers were able to capitalize on one of those chances early, when Hudson Fasching's seeing-eye slapper from the blue line found the upper corner against Penn State's Matthew Skoff at just 1:14 of the first period to give Minnesota an early 1-0 lead. The Gophers maintained an early-period push, leading the shots battle against the highest-shooting team in the nation six or seven minutes into the contest. Penn State averages 44.2 SOG per contest, but it was the Gophers that had the better of the shots, and the scoring chances, early.
However, Penn State rallied, swarming the net and picking up the game-tying goal at 9:35 of the first. Chase Berger picked up a shot from the point that deflected into the low circle and put it past Schierhorn to tie the game at 1-1. Just minutes later it appeared that Penn State had taken a 2-1 lead as Tommy Olczyk's shot beat Schierhorn. However, upon review, the goal was waived off, as a Penn State player was laying on Eric Schierhorn before and while the puck entered the net. Lucia said that could have been a "turning point" in the game, but also suggested that he "was pretty sure the goal would be waived off" after seeing the replay on the video board.
The Gophers survived the Penn State onslaught and were able to take the lead with just 48 seconds left in the period. Taylor Cammarata, who had already made his presence felt by swarming around the puck, snuck in from the point on the powerplay when he noticed his defender cheating towards the blue-line pass. Cammarata walked right in and rifled a hard wrister from the middle of the circle just as the powerplay expired to give the Gophers a big 2-1 lead heading into the break.
Minnesota ratcheted up the pressure in the second period, growing their lead to two goals and dominating the shot totals in the middle frame. Tyler Sheehy finally broke through with a goal at 8:31 of the period. The goal started on a rush up the wing by Cammarata, who waited just long enough to feed the puck to Justin Kloos. Kloos took the puck with speed and feathered it into the slot to Sheehy, who buried his ninth of the year to put the Gophers up 3-1.
Lucia said that the coaches "shuffled the deck" after last weekend, moving some guys around the lineup. Lucia specifically said that he "wanted to get Cammy going," and that even though it was hard to break up the Kloos-Reilly-Sheehy line that was working so well the last few weeks "we're not going to go anywhere unless we get [guys like Cammy] contributing."
The Gophers totaled 19 shots in the second, to bring their two period total to 31. Penn State had fired 22 shots on Eric Schierhorn through 40 minutes of play.
Leon Bristedt added a goal from the low slot at 6:00 of the third period, and the Gophers again outshot Penn State 12-10 in the third for a 43-32 overall advantage.
Don Lucia described it like this after the game: "This [season] has been a roller coaster. But you know what? We knew it would be."
"Enjoy the ride."