Rem Pitlick hasn’t forgotten about what happened at Penn State.
If anything, last season’s four consecutive losses to the Big Ten Conference foe that ended the Gophers’ season in crash-and-burn fashion have only festered in the junior center’s mind.
“I hate them,” Pitlick said. “I’m not happy about last year. That’s no good that we got swept two weekends in a row. My roommate and I were talking about it the other day, like, I don’t know how that happened.”
The Gophers will have their chance at revenge Friday and Saturday evening at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The unranked home team looks to upset the No. 9 Nittany Lions, who kept it from the NCAA tournament in former coach Don Lucia’s final season.
In those final four games last season, including a Big Ten quarterfinal series the second weekend, the Gophers coughed up at least five goals per contest to Penn State.
And the danger hasn’t faded. The Nittany Lions lead the nation with 94 goals this season, averaging 5.22 per game. That’s more than a full goal more than St. Cloud State, the next highest-scoring team.
Meanwhile, the Gophers fired 46 shots in a 3-2 loss to lowly Ferris State this past Saturday, a defeat that dropped them to No. 24 in USCHO.com’s PairWise rankings. It’s not an ideal place to be with half a season to play.
“There’s a lot of different ways to look at it, but I just think the best way to look at it is, there’s nothing we can do about it now,” Pitlick said. “We need to win every one. That’s our mentality going forward. We can’t have any more soft losses like that.”
Pitlick’s winger Brent Gates Jr., echoed that sentiment, saying the team will have to be sharp in this second half and produce some big victories.
But if anyone is going to lead that effort, it’s top-scorers Pitlick, Gates and linemate Tyler Sheehy.
Since the three joined together Nov. 23, Sheehy and Pitlick both have recorded at least one point in all eight games, tying career-best point streaks.
Gates has a goal in each of the past three games and four of five.
Winger Scott Reedy said while finding the right line combinations takes time, having at least one with that chemistry at this point in the season is crucial.
“To find three guys that work together like they do is important for the whole team, just to see how it’s done and follow their lead,” said Reedy, who had a hat trick last Friday.
Pitlick called last year’s Penn State flops “frustrating.” Coach Bob Motzko wasn’t there. He replaced Lucia less than four weeks later and has come to understand what this budding rivalry means to his players.
“Yeah, we’ve kind of had this one marked,” Gates said. “We feel like we owe them something. Getting back into conference play is exciting on its own, but we’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to get to play these guys again.
“And I would assume everyone, especially the returners, are going to come out with some energy and some fire this weekend.”