Nittany Lions win; Notre Dame next week
By John Miller
For the Mirror
UNIVERSITY PARK — If game one of Penn State’s this best-of-three series with Minnesota was a thriller, game two Saturday night may just have been the game of the year in Big Ten ice hockey action so far in 2018.
Despite three lead changes and a six-goal second period, Penn State was able to survive and advance, winning 6-5 over Minnesota and moving on to the Big Ten semifinals.
The Nittany Lions will play Notre Dame. The Lions have yet to get the better of the Fighting Irish, losing three and tying one in four regular season matchups.
Cael Morris of Notre Dame, who is considered by many to be the best goaltender in the country, allowed only eight Penn State goals in four games.
With Penn State scoring 15 goals (with two being open-net goals) in their last three games against Minnesota, Golden Gopher coach Don Lucia decided to sit starting goaltender Mat Robson and start Eric Schierhorn, a decision which did not go well off the bat.
Just 16 seconds in, Trevor Hamilton’s rip from the point snipe beat Schierhorn giving Penn State a 1-0 lead.
The Lions didn’t stop there as Alex Limoges danced around the Gophers and sent the puck toward the net where Evan Barrett and Liam Folkes were fighting for the rebound. Folkes eventually tapped it in for the easy goal and a 2-0 lead.
The line of Folkes-Barratt-Limoges have found their rhythm, having scoring the last nine of 21 Penn State goals in the past four games against the Gophers.
“I don’t think there’s anything I can say right now that would do what they’ve done justice and in the clutch,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “It’s very fitting that that line got the winner, they were awesome.”
However for the fourth time in the last four meetings, someone was ejected from the game. This time it was Brett Murray of Penn State, who was assessed a late hit to the head on Minnesota’s Leon Bristedt.
The penalty came at a costly time for the Lions, as they had to end the first and start the second period down a man and momentum began to go back and forth.
For the third time on power play in the series, it was once again Casey Mittelstadt who cut the Penn State lead to 2-1.
Minnesota winger Brent Gates was then called for hooking with not much time left on the major, giving the Nittany Lions a power play of their own. From a perfect feed from Limoges, Evan Barratt slapped the puck into a wide open net for a 3-1 lead.
However, within a four-minute stretch, the Nittany Lions were caught napping on defense twice. Jack Ramsey found the puck in traffic and beat Peyton Jones from the opposite faceoff circle making it a one-goal game again.
The game-tying goal came from Rem Pitlick, who was able to go coast-to-coast for a score.
The Gophers continued their offensive pressure. Scott Reedy didn’t miss his chance to give Minnesota a 4-3 lead.
However, James Robinson later beat Schier-horn to tie the game at 4-4.
Minnesota went up 5-4 as Reedy scored into a wide open net. Brandon Biro later tied it up at 5-5 off an assist from Nate Sucese with just over 12 minutes remaining. It was Barratt who scored his fourth goal in the last three games against the Gophers for the victory.
“Anytime you hear the crowd get like that after the puck hits the net, you can’t help yourself but go crazy. Barratt said.