State College, PA - For the first time in history, The Minnesota Gophers have lost to the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Now that we have that out of our system, let's move on.
The Gophers (17-10-3 Overall, 8-2-3 B1G) came back late to tie the game, scoring with the extra attacker in the final minute to force overtime, before a questionable penalty call in the extra session gave Penn State (16-10-4. 8-5-1) the chance it was looking for, scoring to clinch the win and secure a home split.
Minnesota got off to a rough start in the first, as an offensive zone penalty gave the Nittany Lions an early powerplay which they capitalized on. Adam Wilcox stopped Curtis Loik's wraparound chance, but Loik was there to fire the rebound past Wilcox and put PSU up 1-0 at 7:21. PSU's Scott Conway put his team up 2-0 when he undressed Gopher defenseman Ryan Collins and beat Wilcox on the backhand at 12:23.
The Gophers were down 2-0 but not out entering the second period. Travis Boyd took advantage of a powerplay chance to score his 14th of the season at 8:17 of the period. PSU's Conway scored his second of the night on a two-on-one at 15:44, but Minnesota bounced right back with another Travis Boyd powerplay goal just 37 seconds later at 16:21.
The game was played at a fast and furious pace in the second and third period, with the Gophers controlling much of the zone time and generating the majority of the shots. Penn State did an excellent job of blocking shots and clogging up passing lanes, however - at one point in the third period, the Nittany Lions had blocked 28 Gopher shot attempts.
The referees swallowed their whistles for the remainder of the third period, and both teams traded chance after chance, but Penn State's P.J. Musico and Minnesota's Wilcox were up to the task, stopping everything they faced. The Gophers pulled Wilcox with just over a minute to play, and Sam Warning was able to knot the game at 3-3 with just 40 seconds left in the period. Travis Boyd hustled to keep the puck in the offensive zone before drawing two PSU defenders and releasing Hudson Fasching into the right circle. Fasching found Warning circling behind the net on the far side of the PSU goal, and Warning was able to tap the puck home.
The goal seemed to energize the Gophers heading into overtime, but all was for naught. The referees, who had called none of the more blatant infractions as the third period wound down, decided to whistle Michael Brodzinski in overtime for elbowing. The Gophers went to the penalty kill and 19 seconds later Luke Juha's seeing-eye shot from the point was in the back of the net, winning the game for the Nittany Lions.
The loss certainly stings, especially after the comeback, but the bigger picture is still looking fine: despite the defeat, Minnesota actually moved up to T-10th in the Pairwise rankings, and the Gophers are still in first place by themselves in the B1G conference standings (Ohio State plays Michigan on Sunday).
The Gophers will look to get back in the win column at home against Michigan State. The Spartans have won three of their last four, sweeping Penn State at home before splitting at Wisconsin this weekend. The series goes Thursday-Friday this week, with both games starting at 8PM central.
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