Gophers ready to face Penn State in winner-take-all Semifinal matchup

After beating Notre Dame in a best-of-three series last weekend, they’ll have just one game to get past Penn State

by Julianna Landis

    Minnesota has fought back from the brink of elimination to move on to the Semifinal, and they may have some advantage over the Nittany Lions as they’re moving on with the momentum from their win in the Quarterfinals to face a team that has been sitting for nearly three weeks. But Penn State is still a formidable opponent, and the Gophers know that this time, there will be no second chances. 

The change to just a one-game series raises the stakes and Freshman Sampo Ranta said that the team knows how important it will be to start the game on the right foot. “You have to show up and be ready to go, you can’t give anything to the opponent. You’ve just got to be on top of your game right away, there’s no waiting at that point.” Ranta said. 

  Notre Dame’s defensive, neutral-zone trap style couldn’t be more different from Penn State’s shooting-focused play. One key to stopping Penn State’s offense will be to have the forwards play back alongside the defensemen, junior forward Scott Reedy explained, “Coach has just talked about having a triangle play through the neutral, as long as we’re kinda on a string connected in a triangle it’s not at intimidating when they’re chucking pucks and having all their forwards running at our D.” Reedy said. 

  The Gophers have had a tough time against Penn State in recent years, especially when playing on the road. But they showed some improvement the last time they faced the Nittany Lions just a few weeks ago. They held third-period leads in both games in their late February series, and head coach Bob Motzko said that they left their last meeting feeling closer to coming away with a win, “We were just there, and we know what we’re walking into…They’ve just got such firepower, and we’ve seen it. We have to be the best version of our team that we can be when we get out there.” Motzko said. 

 Minnesota may also have some help from a bit of a superstition that came out of their quarterfinal series as well. Earlier this season, the team debuted special gold jerseys that bear the name “Wooger” on the back to honor former Gopher player, coach and broadcaster Doug Woog after his death in December. 

The team wore the jerseys in the Mariucci Classic and in January as they completed a sweep over Ohio State, and the good luck was brought back for the last two games of the Quarterfinal. The team is careful not to jinx anything about the jerseys, but they do have a 4-0 record when wearing them. It has yet to be announced if the team will be wearing them once more, but Scott Reedy is all in favor, “I mean, they’re working for us, so we’ll take it if we can wear them… I mean, McManus immediately asked after the game if we could wear them to Penn State, so we’ll see.” 

Minnesota will play Penn State in a one-game Semifinal on Saturday, March 14