State College, Pa. - The Gophers needed just one point this weekend to clinch home ice for the Big Ten hockey quarterfinals next weekend.
Instead, Penn State defeated Minnesota 5-2 on Saturday night for its first-ever series sweep over the Gophers. Not only that but the Nittany Lions’ two decisive victories vaulted the them over the Gophers into fourth place in the conference.
That means the No. 8 Gophers, now fifth, will be back at Pegula Ice Arena next Friday for the start of a best-of-three against a team that won the season series 3-1.
The Nittany Lions won 5-1 on Friday, with a 61-shot barrage against the punchless visitors.
In the rematch, the Gophers practically matched Penn State shot-for-shot, but goalie Peyton Jones stopped everything until his team opened up a 3-0 lead.
Alex Limoges and Denis Smirnov got goals in the opening period for the Nittany Lions and Brandon Biro scored the third in the seventh minute of the second.
Mike Szmatula of the Gophers (19-15-2, 10-12-2-1 Big Ten) finally beat Jones with 1:58 left in the second.
Limoges restored Penn State’s three-goal lead with a power-play goal early in the third to make it 4-1. Brent Gates got Minnesota’s second goal with 5:16 left to play.
Penn State’s final goal was an empty-netter.
The Gophers, who were outshot 4-to-1 in the series opener, actually had a 41-40 edge in shots in this game. Not that it mattered at all on the scoreboard.
Jones finished with 38 saves for the Nittany Lions and backup Matt Erlichman had one. Mat Robson stopped 35 shots for the Gophers.
Coach Guy Gadowsky got his 100th victory at Penn State (16-3-5, 9-10-5-2) with this win.