There wasn’t much more to be desired from the Gophers’ kickoff to the final leg of the season. The way Friday night’s 5-1 victory over Penn State at Mariucci Arena came together left the coaching staff giddy.
Each member of the first line scored goals. It’s the first time that has happened this season and it fueled a stretch of five unanswered goals. Penn State scored early and then Sam Warning set off the Gophers’ offensive surge.
Linemate Hudson Fasching followed up with a goal midway through the first period and Kyle Rau completed the trifecta minutes later. The line finished the first period with four points.
“I thought they had great energy,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “Sam was on his game [Friday night]. I was kidding with Sam during the week that we had a good weekend at Penn State and we need him to continue to score. It was a nice play on his first goal. Hudson played well, Kyle played well, and I thought that line really got us going.”
Three players finished with two points for the second-ranked Gophers (22-4-5, 11-2-2 Big Ten). Fasching scored and assisted on a goal, and Mike Reilly and Travis Boyd each had a pair of assists. Goaltender Adam Wilcox made 30 saves.
The first line’s success carried into the next trio of forwards. Nate Condon and Taylor Cammarata scored goals for the second line, leaving five of the Gophers’ top six forwards with goals. Justin Kloos nearly made it 6-for-6, but Penn State (6-21-2, 2-12-1) pulled down the freshman on a breakaway in the second period.
Condon scored the Gophers’ first shorthanded goal of the season and Cammarata scored on the power play, continuing the special teams’ success.
“I think we’re all clicking right now. It was a good three points overall,” Warning said about his line. “The mentality right now going into the game is that working hard the first 10 minutes is key to our success.”
Rust wasn’t a factor, though Lucia expected his team to come out a little slow after a weekend off. The Gophers kept up the offense by scoring five or more goals for the 10th time this season.
The Gophers made the most of their in-game breaks. Warning’s and Rau’s goals were scored seconds after TV timeouts, and Cammarata’s goal was scored in the opening seconds of the second period. Quick goals continually deflated the Nittany Lions, who struggled to produce quality scoring chances despite 31 shots on goal.
Penn State came into the series upset-minded. They were 2-2-1 over their past five games, with a pair of victories over No. 13 Michigan. The opening minutes and an early goal by Kenny Brooks showed off this success before it quickly faded.
Fasching said the Gophers got a boost from Warning’s opening goal, and the offense kept buzzing the rest of the night.
The Gophers lost forward Tom Serratore in the first period to an upper-body injury. Lucia said the decision to keep him out was mostly precautionary. Serratore is one of five seniors scheduled to be recognized during Saturday’s Senior Day.
Condon kicked off his final weekend at home on a high note, and he will be under the spotlight once more Saturday.
“The guys we needed to score goals, scored goals tonight. … The top two lines were the goal-scorers,” Lucia said. “As you get down to the end, you have to be able to count on your guys night in and night out and [Friday] they came through.”