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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Complete Sweep Of No. 8 Minnesota With 5-2 Win

by on February 24, 2018 10:15 PM

For a second straight night Penn State hockey dominated Minnesota en route to a convincing 5-2 victory as the Nittany Lions finished the regular season having swept the No.8 ranked Gophers.

On the heels of an impressive 5-1 win the night prior, Penn State waited just three minutes to beat Mat Robson to open the scoring. The goal was the latest for freshman Alex Limoges who had begun to find his stride over the past few weeks, now up to six goals on the year.

Seven minutes later Denis Smirnov deflected in a shot for his 14th of the year as Penn State peppered Robson who struggle to fight off the puck as the Nittany Lions swarmed the net. Minnesota would hang on in spite of the shaky start and Penn State would lead just 2-0 after 20 minutes.

Brandon Biro waited just six minutes to tap in a goal for Penn State's third of the night as the Nittany Lions pounced on pucks and forced odd man rushes into the Minnesota zone. Mike Szmatula would break the scoreless drought for Minnesota late in the period.

The youth movement continue early in the third period as Limoges scored his second of the night just seconds into a power play and just 2:37 into the final frame. 

From there it was formality. Minnesota would score once more, but James Robinson's empty net tally put to rest any hopes of a late Minnesota comeback.

The victory gives Penn State home ice advantage for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, a best-of-three format in the opening round hosted by the higher seed's campus.

Historically, Penn State's win also gives the program its first home sweep of Minnesota, the Gophers long a thorn in the Nittany Lions' side early in the program's tenure. Perhaps more importantly, the weekend was one of Penn State's best of the year, and with all the characteristics of the Nittany Lions' 2017 run. After a late season slump, Penn State's restart button appears to have been hit hard. 

Peyton Jones backstopped another strong outing making 38 saves on the night including 17 in the second period. Minnesota would actually lead the shot count 41-40 by the end of the night but went 0-5 on the man advantage.

In the national picture, Penn State is currently 14th in the PairWise rankings, although that may change as results roll in around the country. The Nittany Lions will likely need a series victory once again over Minnesota next weekend to punch their ticket to Allentown.

And for all that talk about the season being over not long ago.

"We didn't feel that way," Guy Gadowsky said with a smile. "Maybe you did."

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