Minnesota blown out by Penn State

The Gophers faced a season-high 61 shots against the Nittany Lions.

Forward Darian Romanko, center, eyes the puck during a game against Penn State at 3M at Mariucci Arena Feb. 4, 2017.

Ellen Schmidt, Daily File Photo

Forward Darian Romanko, center, eyes the puck during a game against Penn State at 3M at Mariucci Arena Feb. 4, 2017.

by Drew Cove

Minnesota made the game one to forget almost from the drop of the puck.

No. 18 Penn State (15-13-5, 8-10-5 Big Ten), with one victory in the previous nine games, had an offensive explosion against No. 8 Minnesota (19-14-2, 10-11-2 Big Ten) in a 5-1 Gophers’ loss Friday.

“I was shocked,” head coach Don Lucia told Gopher Radio Network. “It just wasn’t our night tonight, I don’t have an explanation other than we looked tired, we looked flat, we looked mentally out of it, [and] physically out of it.”

Penn State had its share of offensive chances in the game with 61 shots. In comparison to the previous matchup with the Gophers, the Nittany Lions had 26 shots total in each of the two games against the Gophers in October.

The shot total was 17 more than the previous season-high in a game against Minnesota. Coming into the weekend, the Gophers had allowed an average of 28 shots per conference game, while they generated an average of 31 shots. 

In the offensive explosion, Penn State’s Trevor Hamilton rushed in on a 2-on-1 chance to bury the eventual game-winning-goal for the Nittany Lions in the second period, which made the score 2-1. 

The bright spot for the Gophers was goaltender Mat Robson, who kept the game either tied or down by one goal through the first two periods and gave the team a chance to come back. Robson saved 55 of 59 shots before getting pulled late in the game.

Lucia said he did not take him out because he was struggling.

“It’s not often you give up four and you’re the best player,” Lucia told the Gopher Radio Network. “That was the mercy rule to take him out at that point in time.”

After he gave up a fourth goal, Robson was pulled for goaltender Eric Schierhorn who took the last eight minutes of the game. It was Schierhorn’s 100th appearance for the Gophers.

The only offensive push the Gophers could muster to support Robson’s heroics was a first period goal by Casey Mittelstadt before an onslaught of Nittany Lions’ offense.

Minnesota has preached about getting off to fast starts and winning the first ten minutes of the game. That wasn’t the case, as Penn State scored the first goal just over eight minutes in. The Gophers didn’t have a shot until after the mid-way point of the first.

“We’re 10 minutes into the game and shots are [12-0],” Lucia told Gopher Radio Network. “We tie it 1-1 after getting outshot, the second period was worse.”

With the loss, the Gophers need at least one point to clinch home-ice in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

Minnesota has a chance to get that clinching point as it returns to action Saturday for the last game of the regular season against Penn State at 6 p.m.