‘A Tail Of Two Games’: Gophers Fall 4-2 To The Penn State Nittany Lions

November 10th, 2022: Gophers’ not ready to play, fall 4-2 loss to Penn State. Minnesota only played ’35 minutes of good hockey’ in their Thursday night loss. 

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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – As expected, Penn State came out firing like they always do. They recorded the game’s first two shots just 23 seconds in. For a team that averages 42.6 shots a game, that was expected. They throw shots from anywhere and cause scrums in front of the net.

“We did the opposite of our strengths,” Gophers’s captain Brock Faber said. “We tried to play cute, we played slow, we weren’t physical enough, and we just weren’t ready tonight.”

But that’s no excuse for the Gophers’ extremely slow start to the game. The first period was a period to flush down the toilet. They only recorded four shots and got three shots blocked. Sloppy defensive zone positioning, careless passes, and failed zone entries were on display to start.

“We handed them two goals,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said. “You can’t do that when they are playing good. We played pretty well for 35 minutes but we were not good for chunks of that game.”

So, just six minutes and 15 seconds into the game Penn State converted on the game’s first goal. It came after another failed zone entry by the Gophers. Junior captain, Brock Faber got hit shortly after entering the zone and coughed up the puck, Carter Schade took it away and sent one over to Connor McMenamin for his sixth of the year, converting on the two-on-one.

The second period started differently as the Gophers came out firing, a complete opposite from period number one. With just two minutes into the second, the Gophers had already recorded two shots on three attempts and 30 seconds later Bryce Brodzinski notched his third of the year.

Jimmy Snuggerud and Matthew Knies went off for a change and Mason Nevers and Brodzinksi hopped over the boards. Logan Cooley, who stayed out there, caught a pass from Justen Close and streaked up the ice. The skilled freshman, who went third overall in the previous NHL draft, completely walked Paul DeNaples and fed one over to Brodzinski. The senior forward isn’t going to miss too many of those as he ripped home his third of the year, tying the game at 1-1.

Snuggerud took a penalty with about eight minutes left in the second and although Penn State’s power play has converted on 13.3 percent of their chances, they completely took over the game for the next three minutes. They recorded five shots on 14 shot attempts in the span of a minute and 30 seconds. But Christian Sarlo stopped Penn State’s pressure with a hooking penalty. This sent the Gophers to their first power play of the game.

The power play included one blocked shot and one shot that hit the pipe. At the final seconds of the man advantage, Sarlo came out of the box and caught a pass by Ashton Calder. Sarlo waited and skated by the diving Jackson LaCombe, then showed off some patience and slipped one past Close with three seconds left in the second period.

“Momentum is huge in games,” said Aaron Huglen after Sarlo scored with three seconds left in the second period. “Stuff like that can kill your momentum but we got to find a way to just keep going.”

Faber added: It’s hard. When you’re not ready for a game it’s hard to just turn it on. We played better in the second period but that’s a game we played, as bad as we did, we still had a chance to win the game. We all have to take a good look in the mirror tonight. That was a tough one.”

The Gophers have three power-play units and have been using all three pretty regularly but in a tied game, the first unit decided to stay out on the ice and log a two-minute shift. That two-minute shift saw a lot of passing and zero shots on net. With tired legs, Penn State was able to capitalize just seconds after Sarlo came out of the box.

“They took a really long shift in the second. We had everything going for us in the second period until they took a two-minute shift,” Motzko said on the Knies-Cooley-Snuggerud line staying out on the ice for the whole power play.

The third period started with yet another turnover by the Gophers in the neutral zone. The Nittany Lions took just 45 seconds in the third period to make it 3-1. MaCeachern made no mistake and ripped past Close for his fifth of the year and ninth point in 11 games for Penn State.

But just about four minutes later, Aaron Huglen caught a pass from Faber in the neutral zone, and with Rhett Pitlick sliding his skate on the blue line, Huglen walked in and ripped home his first goal of the year. It was his fourth point of the year and Faber’s seventh.

Huglen ranks fourth on the team in scoring chances created behind only Cooley, Snuggerud, and Knies. He has been generating offense for himself and his linemates at a very high rate but hasn’t been able to cash in with a goal. So, his first goal of the year was a big sigh of relief.

“Yeah it’s obviously been a long time so it felt really good,” said Huglen.

Ultimately, Huglen’s goal was the last the Gophers would get, and eventually stare up at the board looking at a 4-2 loss. With under a minute to go, Motzko pulled Close for the extra attacker. A couple of good looks with the extra man but nothing to show for it as Liam Souliere stood tall. The junior goaltender stopped 24 out of the 26 he faced.

“I don’t know who has them rated so low. They are 10-1-0,” Motzko said. “We’ve got them rated pretty high. They have a lot of returning players and a lot of offense. We’ll have to play better than we did tonight.”

The Gophers are set to finish the two-game set tomorrow on Friday back on home ice. Minnesota is 3-2-0 on the season in the second game of the series and 3-1-0 on Fridays. A lot to clean up but one would expect the message from Motzko to the players will sit well.

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