STATE COLLEGE, PA. – The nation’s preseason No. 1 women’s hockey team got quite a scare in its season opener.
But the Gophers eked out a win, beating Penn State 2-0 at the Pegula Ice Arena with an empty-net goal in the last minute, easing the tension. Until then, Nittany Lions goalie Celine Whitlinger was almost unbeatable, making 41 saves.
Only Milica McMillen, a senior defenseman, managed to slip a puck past Whitlinger, on a power-play at 4 minutes, 16 seconds of the second period.
Sarah Potomak, the freshman from British Columbia, scored the late goal with 56 seconds left.
“We’re used to teams playing us extremely hard,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “We know that we’re going to get everybody’s best effort and that’s what we got from Penn State tonight.”
Amanda Leveille got the shutout, stopping 20 shots, including 12 in the opening period. She needed to make just three saves in the second period and five in the third when Penn State had its lone power play.
The shutout was the 23rd of her career. That’s the fourth most in WCHA history and 10th most on the NCAA all-time list.
“The key for our team is just to continue to stay with it and not get frustrated, and continue to push the pace, and I thought they did that,” Frost said. “You’d much rather be up two or three goals, but it’s good for our team, especially early on in the year, to play with a one-goal lead and to try to extend it there. We’ll see a lot more games like this, but it builds good character to be in tight ones.”
This is the Nittany Lions’ second season as a Division I program. They played the Gophers in a season opener last year, too. But that game was a rout, with the Gophers winning 8-0 at Ridder Arena. McMillen had two goals in that game.