Minnesota couldn’t rectify a shocking loss Friday.
No. 18 Penn State (16-13-5, 9-10-5 Big Ten) completed the sweep against No. 8 Minnesota (19-15-2, 10-12-2 Big Ten) Saturday in a 5-2 victory. The two teams played physical and chippy with one another and they won’t forget that once they meet back at Pegula Ice Arena in a week to begin the Big Ten tournament.
“It’s disappointing. We came out and played much better [Saturday] than we did [Friday],” head coach Don Lucia told the Gopher Radio Network.
Minnesota played a better game than it did Friday but still did not come up with the victory. Friday the Gophers had 15 shots in the game, after two periods Saturday, Minnesota already had 31 shots.
The Gophers finished the game with a narrow advantage in shots 41-40, but that wasn’t the stat that counts.
Penn State scored early and often through the weekend, with five goals in each game. Saturday, the Nittany Lions packed in two goals after the first 20 minutes. They added another in the second period, padding a 3-0 lead. They scored two in the final frame including an empty netter that secured the three-goal victory.
“One goal last night and two goals tonight [for the Gophers],” Lucia told the Gopher Radio Network. “You’ve got to score some goals too to get some momentum.”
Goaltender Mat Robson earned his ninth consecutive start, but like his outing on Friday, he allowed four goals. The goaltender faced the most shots the Gophers have faced all season in the last game. Though he didn’t face as many Saturday, Penn State’s shooters still got past him.
The shot barrage favored the Gophers early in the game but it would take almost 40 minutes for one of the shots to go through. The goal came from another cold hand, alternate captain Mike Szmatula, who hadn’t scored since Jan. 7.
That make could have been the beginning to a comeback for the Gophers, down 3-1, but a late penalty at the end of the second period and another goal from Penn State at the start of the third prevented that from happening.
Brent Gates Jr. scored the goal to cut Minnesota’s deficit to two goals. It would not be enough, though, because forward James Robinson scored the empty-net goal.
Minnesota’s power play dropped to just over 13 percent conversion for the season. They scored 19 times on 143 chances in the 36 games this season.
While Minnesota’s forwards had a tough time scoring, some of the Nittany Lion forwards had offensively surging weekends. Penn State’s forward Alex Limoges had three points in the game Saturday, two goals and an assist.
Minnesota failed to capitalize on getting the one point they needed to clinch at least two more games at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The 0-2 weekend marks the first time Minnesota had been swept since early January when Michigan came to Minneapolis and beat the Gophers in two games.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win,” Lucia told the Gopher Radio Network. “When you come in and only give yourself a chance to win one game, that’s not good enough.”