After Friday’s 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Penn State, the Minnesota Golden Gophers came out on Saturday’s game with new life.
A 2-0 lead had the Gophers poised for a more complete game that resulted in a series split. That was until the Nittany Lions found the back of the net three times in each of the second and third periods that led to Minnesota taking a 6-3 loss.
“What happened [Friday] was inexcusable,” Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko said. “I’m hoping this is a grow-up weekend for us and how we responded after last weekend.”
Motzko praised the effort for most of the team Saturday for being nearly enough to win, though the mistakes were “glaring.” It was on the goaltending side with goaltender Jared Moe that Motzko thought there could be some improvement.
“Some of those shots needed to be saved,” Motzko said. “I would rarely ever say anything, but our guys had an effort tonight that needed a better game from back there.”
The Gophers held leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in the game, only to give it up and let Penn State crawl back in to eventually tie the game 3-3 and have a familiar face haunt Minnesota on the scoresheet for the game winner.
Former Minnesota defenseman Clayton Phillips, who now is a part of the Nittany Lions defense corps, took a pass from the corner and ripped a shot from the point to get by Moe to give Penn State its first lead of the game early in the third period.
“We sort of got our footing in the second half,” Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I thought we were skating well in all three zones. The guys finally got their feet under them.”
Minnesota began the game playing with a complete effort, so much as to get out of the first period with a two-goal lead and a shot chart that looked like this:
Gophers forward Sampo Ranta set the tone for the home team early on and continued to be the spark plug for Minnesota’s offense throughout the entire game. Along with his linemates Scott Reedy and Brannon McManus, the trio created the most dangerous chances Minnesota had all night.
“Playing with them, we’re all big bodies,” Ranta said of his line. “We’ve got some skill, so it’s easy to play with them and we’ve been together for a while.”
Thanks to Reedy, Minnesota opened the scoring, with a nifty deflection on the power play to get by Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones. That power play tally was Minnesota’s first after a string of 17 consecutive power plays went scoreless.
Ranta was eventually rewarded for his dominant playmaking and speed with Minnesota’s third and final goal.
In the end, Penn State found a way to control play in the later stages of the game to get three unanswered goals in the final frame. Penn State’s stifling forecheck was much to do with it, by sending two forwards aggressively down low on Minnesota’s defensemen, there were many instances when they couldn’t clear the puck efficiently which led to sloppy turnovers either in Minnesota’s own defensive zone or in the neutral zone.
“Giving up a goal in the first five minutes is never good,” Minnesota forward Joey Marooney said. “From there it was tough to get back into it [with] a couple penalties and shots from the point.”