State College, Pa. – Penn State, the nation’s highest-scoring team, showed off its offensive skills on Friday, routing the Gophers 7-2 in their Big Ten series opener at Pegula Ice Arena.
The Nittany Lions, who came in averaging 4.54 goals per game, took a 3-0 lead in the opening period and led 5-0 in the second before Tyler Sheehy scored the first of his two goals for the Gophers. Sheehy now has 10 goals this season and points in 18 of his past 19 games.
“It’s sure not the way we want to start a hockey game, down 3-0,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “The sad thing is they were three bad plays on our part. A faceoff play, we got beat on an icing, and then we did a saucer pass where we turned it over. We were down 3-0, but we were playing pretty well.
“We’ve all been in games like that. We didn’t get down and could still get back in it because there was still a lot of hockey in it. We had golden chances of getting back in it, but we missed the net on every single one of them.”
Alex Limoges led No. 18 Penn State with two goals, Chase Berger and Brando Biro had one goal and two assists. The seven goals were the most that PSU has ever scored against Minnesota.
“If we were to look back at it, I don’t think it’s as bad as the score shows,” Sheehy said. “Our execution wasn’t there. Our effort was fine. We beat ourselves.
“We’ve been a pretty good defensive team all year and able to shut down some really good offenses. We weren’t there tonight as far as getting pucks out. We weren’t able to stop their attack.”
Mat Robson started in goal for Minnesota (11-13-4, 8-8-3 Big Ten Ten), but he was replaced after giving up his third goal at 13 minutes, 11 seconds of the first period. He had six saves. Eric Schierhorn played the rest of the game; he gave up four goals and made 29 saves.
Peyton Jones of Penn State (15-10-2, 7-9-1-0-1) had 24 saves.
“We prepared for [the Nittany Lions] in film and what-not,” Gophers forward Jack Ramsey said. “We knew they were going to be able to come out strong. In the first period we had some possession in our zone, then all of a sudden we had one breakdown and it was in the back of our net. Tough feeling after the first period.”
The Gophers split with the Nittany Lions in early January — losing the first game 4-2, winning the second 4-1 — but that was in Minneapolis.
Happy Valley has been anything but a pleasant place for the Gophers of late.
Last season, the Nittany Lions beat Minnesota four consecutive times on their ice: 5-1 and 5-2 to get home ice for the conference playoffs, and 5-3 and 6-5 to end the Gophers season. Doing the math, PSU has averaged 5.6 goals the past five times it has played Minnesota in Pegula Ice Arena.
Freelance reporter Nathan Wells contributed to this story.