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As they near the midpoint of the season, the Gophers have developed a pattern. One night each weekend, they find their rhythm, and they play at the level their coaches envisioned.

The problem is, college hockey games come in pairs. On Saturday, the No. 7 Gophers remained stuck in their rut, falling 6-3 at Penn State a day after dominating the Nittany Lions. On a night when the Gophers needed to guard against a stronger effort from No. 18 Penn State, they faltered, lacking sharpness and committing too many blunders at Pegula Ice Arena.

The Nittany Lions raced to a 3-0 lead before the Gophers got their first goal, a shorthander from Rhett Pitlick with 30.3 seconds left in the second period. The Gophers pushed hard in the third period and got goals from Jimmy Snuggerud and Bryce Brodzinski, but Penn State answered each time. The Nittany Lions outshot the Gophers 43-26, including a 22-6 margin in the second period.

The loss ended a five-game win streak for the Gophers in Happy Valley. They have not swept an opponent this season since defeating St. Thomas twice on the season's opening weekend.

"We're disappointed because we've seen this again,'' Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. "You win a game on Friday night, especially on the road, and the next night, you're going to get a whole different focus from [the opponent]. There's an edge you have to have. And then, we made mistakes.

"We had a lot of heart and character trying to get back in that game. Guys were fighting their tails off in the third period, but we were kind of fighting an uphill battle with the mistakes we made."

After Friday's 4-1 victory, Motzko said the Gophers had a "monster'' opportunity to break the cycle. He hoped the Gophers would finally understand what was required to sweep a Big Ten opponent, and he thought a win would be a significant statement as they approach the December break.

Penn State switched goaltenders, starting Noah Grannan on Saturday. As they did Friday, the Nittany Lions scored first — and this time, they built on that lead.

Reese Laubach scored on a deflection past screened Gophers goalie Justen Close at 11 minutes, 7 seconds of the first period. Only 54 seconds later, Ryan Kirwan caught Close out of position, scoring into the open side of the net after a pass banked off the skate of Gophers defenseman Cal Thomas.

Kirwan scored again after a Gophers turnover midway through the second period. The Gophers' task grew tougher when Aaron Huglen was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for checking from behind, giving Penn State's highly ranked power play an extended opportunity.

Close stopped 10 Nittany Lions shots, the Gophers blocked five others and Pitlick finished off a two-on-one with a shorthanded goal. But in the third, Penn State's Jacques Bouquot scored on a breakaway to push his team's lead to 4-1.

Snuggerud gave the Gophers another chance to spark a rally when he scored off a Penn State turnover with 5:25 left. It took less than a minute for the Gophers to commit another costly mistake. Close went behind the net to retrieve a puck, and his pass was picked off by Dylan Gratton, who fired it into the net before Close could get back.

Motzko was frustrated by those blatant errors and by his team's inability to put together two wins in a row. They have one more chance before the break when they travel to Ohio State next weekend.

"One day a week, we're really good,'' he said. "We have to find a way to keep that edge consistently."

The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.