Minnesota eliminated from Big Ten tournament

The Gophers lost the 6-5 offensive bonanza with the Nittany Lions.

by Drew Cove

The Gophers lost out on their bid to make a Big Ten tournament run beyond the first round.

No. 11 Minnesota (19-17-2, 10-12-2 Big Ten) was swept again by No. 15 Penn State (18-13-5, 9-10-5 Big Ten) with a 6-5 loss Saturday, making it four straight victories for the Nittany Lions over the Gophers from Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pennsylvania.

“We made some mistakes,” head coach Don Lucia told the Gopher Radio Network. “We had some guys that didn’t play very well tonight. Certainly the last two periods the push was there and the effort was there.”

The game was close, with the score tied after the second and until late in the third period. Penn State’s Evan Barratt scored his second goal of the game, the game winner, with just over eight minutes left in the third, bringing the score to the 6-5 final.

Though Minnesota scored four in the second and ended the period tied 4-4, it wasn’t enough to keep Penn State off the board in the third period. Gophers’ forward Scott Reedy scored four minutes into the final frame to give the Gophers a 5-4 lead. Penn State would score twice unanswered, though, and finish with the victory.

The freshmen forwards were the stars for the Gophers in the losses both Friday and Saturday. In the eight goals Minnesota scored on the weekend, six were from freshmen. The combo of forwards Casey Mittelstadt and Reedy each got three goals on the weekend and their line along with sophomore Rem Pitlick facilitated the offense in the second game to get to five goals.

“Some of the young guys really carried it for us tonight,” Lucia told the Gopher Radio Network. “Casey and Rem and Reedy were really good.”

It didn’t take long for the Nittany Lions to assert their dominance in the game. Just 16 seconds into the contest, defenseman Trevor Hamilton scored the first goal of the game and that set the tone early. By the end of the first period, Minnesota was down 2-0.

Goaltender Eric Schierhorn got his first start since the middle of January, but allowed a goal on the first shot he faced and put his team behind early. In the end, he allowed six goals on 35 shots in his first start in a month and a half.

“We thought Eric’s puck handling would help a little bit,” Lucia told the Gopher Radio Network. “It’s not the way you want to start, giving up the first shot, but the guys battled back from there.”

With the loss, Minnesota was eliminated from the Big Ten tournament and will not play until the tournament is completed. Though they are out of the conference tournament, they still have a chance to make the NCAA once conference tournaments are completed.

Lucia told the Gopher Radio Network that though the team has strength of schedule working in its favor for the NCAA tournament, the Gophers have left their fate in other teams’ hands.

“Now we will sit and wait,” Lucia told the Gopher Radio Network. “Some off time will be helpful, I don’t know if three weeks will be, but that’s what we’ve earned.”