STATE COLLEGE, PA. – Pegula Ice Arena remains a puzzle the Gophers are unable to solve.
Nate Sucese had two goals and an assist as high-scoring Penn State completed a series sweep with a 6-2 victory over the Gophers on Saturday night.
Penn State (16-10-2, 8-9-1-1 Big Ten) has won nine of the past 11 meetings with the Gophers and has outscored them 34-15 in winning the past six meetings at Pegula — averaging 5.7 goals per game. The Gophers missed out on last season’s NCAA tournament after losing their final four games, all at Penn State.
It didn’t get any better for the Gophers (11-14-4, 8-9-3) this weekend. Penn State, which has a nation-best 131 goals this season, won 7-2 Friday and followed that by outshooting Minnesota 48-24 Saturday.
The Gophers briefly led 2-1 in the second period on a Sammy Walker goal before getting undone by penalties. Alex Limoges tied it up on a power-play goal following a terrific Mat Robson save on Denis Smirnov, and Penn State took the lead for good 70 seconds later when Brandon Biro scored off a rebound.
“We take two, five, nine minutes of penalties. Bang-bang-bang, they get two power-play goals,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “And they were terrible penalties we take on the road with a 2-1 lead. … The whole game changed at that point.”
Penn State failed to score on a five-minute power play that spanned the second and third periods after the Gophers’ Sampo Ranta was ejected for checking Alec Marsh from behind. However, not long after that penalty expired, Jack Sadek went to the penalty box for holding. The Gophers couldn’t kill off that penalty, as Nikita Pavlychev punched it in with two seconds left on the power play for a 4-2 lead.
Chase Berger scored less than four minutes later, before Sucese flipped in his second goal against Robson — who finished with 42 saves — with 4:46 to play.
“That game could have had a whole different outcome,” Motzko said.
For one final insult, with 3:17 left, Nathan Burke’s first goal, off a feed from Tommy Novak on a 2-on-1 break, was waved off when Burke was determined to be offsides.
That was the second Gophers goal waved off on the night. Only 58 seconds in, Brent Gates appeared to score off another 2-on-1 break, but the goal was wiped off on a challenge, as the Gophers had too many men on the ice.
Only 72 seconds later, Sucese scored on a breakaway to give Penn State a 1-0 lead instead. Sucese then appeared to strike again at the 5:18 mark. But this time Bob Motzko challenged and won — Penn State also had too many men on the ice. Gates eventually tied the score later in the first period with his 11th goal of the season.
“I felt bad, because for the first half of the game we played very well tonight,” Motzko said. “To have it implode on us because of some selfish penalties, that doesn’t work.”
Gophers men vs. Penn State
Friday: 5 p.m. at Ohio State (BTN)