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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Advance To Big Ten Semifinals With 6-5 Win Over Minnesota

by on March 03, 2018 9:50 PM

It wasn't long ago, nine days in fact, that Penn State hockey looked to be on the outside of the NCAA Tournament equation. The Nittany Lions had a less than 20% chance of making it according to a spreadsheet that requires two math degrees to understand.

But the point remained. It was a long shot.

And it was. Penn State was going to have to sweep Minnesota, a team it had never swept. A team that it had beat just five times heading into last weekend. After that the Nittany Lions would have to go and maybe do it all over again. Nothing about that seemed likely. If anything, nothing about it seemed easy.

Last weekend Penn State accomplished the first part. An almost shocking domination of a Gopher team that projects no shortage of disgust for a Penn State program that had shaken up its once comfortable place in the hockey world.

Then on Friday night Penn State won again, three straight victories against a team the Nittany Lions had never beat twice in a row, let alone three times, let alone so convincingly.

It stood to reason that Minnesota would find itself on Saturday, sending the first round series to a final Game 3 and put a bit of fear into the hearts of a team skating with so much swagger.

But then Trevor Hamilton scored just 16 seconds into regulation putting Penn State ahead faster than the crowd could get to its seats. Then Liam Folkes added another 13 minutes later. If Minnesota was going to make a series of it, that was going to have to happen quickly.

And it did, the Gophers got their best from their best stars as Casey Mittelstadt picked up three points in a second period that saw Minnesota score four goals. A power play tally but Evan Barratt the only early positive in a period dominated by a team watching its season slip from its grasp. A James Robinson goal on a beautiful 2-on-1 feed from Chase Berger tied the game late in the period at 4-4, but the point was the same. Minnesota was going to make this fourth game in nine days as easy as the past three.

Four minutes into the final period Scott Reedy did his part, stunning a Penn State crowd with the Gophers' fifth of the night, the Nittany Lions trailing.

That lead lasted just three minutes and 54 seconds before Brandon Biro pounded home a shot in close.

With just nine minutes and change to play Barratt raced towards the net again, slapping a shot onto goal, corralling his own rebound and smashing it home. 


The final minutes were an onslaught by Minnesota players, desperate to send the game to overtime, but Peyton Jones looked the best player on the ice yet again, stopping multiple chances, denying multiple heartbreaks. It wasn't happening, not on Saturday night and 35 saves later he made sure of it.

As the horn sounded Penn State players rushed the ice, four straight wins over Minnesota, a trip to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals and more importantly, a NCAA Postseason chance ringing up on that impossible to read spreadsheet at nearly 90%.

Not nine days ago it seemed impossible.

But apparently the chances of that happening: 100%.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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