Gophers drop to second in the Big Ten after tough loss at Penn State

Even with solid goaltending and a much-improved Saturday start, the Gophers were unable to come away with a win in Hockey Valley.

Julianna Landis

Heading into the weekend tied atop the Big Ten standings with Penn State, Minnesota had the opportunity to take a firm lead in the standings, facing fellow first-place Penn State on the road. 

Instead, Minnesota mustered just one point, forcing a tie in Friday’s game before falling in regulation on Saturday.

Minnesota manages a tie despite being thoroughly outshot 

Bryce Brodzinski scored to give Minnesota a 3-2 lead with just eight minutes left to play in the third period Friday night, but it wasn’t enough to secure a win. Penn State’s high-powered offense continued to work in the final minutes. Brandon Biro scored with five minutes left to send it to extra time. Neither team scored in the first overtime period, and so each team earned one point before moving into a three-on-three second overtime period to play for an extra conference point. Penn State came up big one more time to close out the night. 

The feel of the game quickly changed in the third period, with the score jumping from a 1-1 tie to a 3-2 Gophers lead in just over five minutes of play. 

The Gophers comeback started in the second period with senior captain Tyler Nanne scoring off a great pass from Sampo Ranta to give the Gophers their first of two game-tying goals on the night. Nanne’s 1-1 equalizer came just a week after he took a bad spill into the end boards against Notre Dame and matched his single-season high in points at 13. 

Goaltender Jack LaFontaine stood tall in goal all night, besting his season record for saves with 54 on the night.

With the extra Big Ten conference point, Penn State broke the tie in the standings to stand alone in first place with 38 points to Minnesota’s 37. 

Gophers allow three unanswered goals to lose second game

Minnesota came out guns blazing on Saturday night, grabbing a 2-0 lead before Penn State fired back to hand the Gophers a 3-2 loss. Penn State took all three possible points by winning in regulation, further solidifying their place atop the Big Ten. 

Though they played much better than they had at the start of the weekend, Minnesota’s lead once again crumbled in the third period. The Nittany Lions scored twice in 30 seconds to take the lead with 10 minutes left to play in the game.  Minnesota was outshot again, 42-23. 

Minnesota had two chances to extend its lead on the power play in the second period but were unable to produce on either opportunity.

In a stark contrast to their Friday night start, the Gophers were on the board in under three minutes. The Gophers doubled their lead in the final minutes of the first period, with defenseman Jackson LaCombe batting it in on the doorstep to put Minnesota up 2-0. 

Minnesota has a chance to catch Penn State in the standings in its final regular-season home series against Michigan next weekend. If the Gophers earn four points against the Wolverines they will again be tied for the top place. They will jump ahead of the Nittany Lions if they can get five or more points in their final homestand.