March 12th, 2022: Sammy Walker’s late goal pushed the Gophers past Penn State 3-2.
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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – With two Big Ten Tournament champion banners in the rafters of Mariucci, the Gophers will look to add another next Saturday against the highly talented Michigan University. Playoff games are full of emotions and jittery fans, and tonight’s 3-2 win over Penn State was the example of that.
After leading 2-0 just 30 seconds into the second period the Gophers eventually saw their lead slip away. That was until the line of Bryce Brodzinski, Blake McLaughlin, and Sammy Walker worked their magic to eventually seal the game. Ben Meyers finished with a goal and an assist. He now carries ten points in his last four games for the Gophers. Justen Close stopped 28 out of 30 in the 3-2 win.
“We survived. Let’s hope this was our clunker in one-and-done tournaments,” said Gophers coach Bob Motzko. “We needed one and we got it, and we survived it. We’ll be better next week.”
After coming off the bye week the Gophers took some time to find their legs. But Ben Meyers eventually got the Gophers on the board with a sweet tip in front of the net. Brock Faber fed one over to Ryan Johnson who eventually threw it on net for Meyers to tip.
Fun fact: Ben Meyers, is good at hockey. pic.twitter.com/6zc4YGggU8
— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) March 13, 2022
Meyers’ two-point effort was witnessed by Minnesota Wild general Bill Guerin, Wild director of amateur scouting Judd Brackett, and two Wild amateur scouts in Brian Hunter and J.P. Perpich.
In the later stages of the first period, Meyers went between the legs around a defender which led to a holding penalty on Simon Mack with one second left in the first. But 27 seconds into the second period the Gophers capitalized on the power play. Jackson LaCombe fired his third of the year past Liam Souliere who finished with 22 saves on 25 shots. LaCombe’s point shot came off a great feed by Ben Meyers. Aaron Huglen picked up the secondary assist on the goal for his 14th point of the year.
Xander Lamppa and Christian Sarlo picked up assists on Tyler Paquette’s even-strength goal in the back half of the second period. Paquette’s 11th of the year beat Close on the glove side after a great give-and-go between Paquette and Sarlo.
One minute later Tristan Broz took a roughing penalty after a Penn State player poked Close’s glove. Broz was sent to the box for Penn State’s first and only power play. Dylan Lugris later found the back of the net off the feed by Connor MacEachern.
Message was received though as the Gophers came out in the third firing. As dramatic as it gets, Brodzinski made a nice defensive play to later find McLaughlin. As we have seen so many times, McLaughlin waited and waited in front until Souliere committed enough. Walker was found all alone in front of the net and buried his 14th of the year to give the Gophers a 3-2 lead with under three minutes to go. The announced crowd of 6,856 exploded as Walker sent them home happy.
“What a great crowd tonight. It’s fun coming into this building with this enthusiasm and this student section,” said Motzko. “I wish we would’ve played a little better for them but we get one more chance next weekend.”
Penn State pulled their goalie for the final two minutes but wasn’t able to get anything going. Meyers’ two-point effort and Walker’s late their period heroics eventually ended Penn State’s season.
The Gophers will now host Michigan for the Big Ten Championship. Winning in 2021, the boys of marron and gold will look to go back-to-back. The two highest-ranked teams are set to battle next Saturday the 19th at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The Gophers and Wolverines split the regular-season series where the Wolverines outscored the Gophers by only two goals.
“It sets up great right, the rubber match between the two,” said Motzko. “We gotta get this crowd back for next weekend.”