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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Win Game 1 Against Minnesota 5-3

by on March 02, 2018 10:30 PM

Penn State hockey has experienced, in both directions, the value of momentum.

Sometimes it has turned victories into defeats, other times it has sparked comebacks. Whatever it does, it changes a game.

On Friday night it change the game in Penn State's favor, a two-goal onslaught in just over a minute to turn a 2-2 game into a 4-2 second intermission lead that the Nittany Lions would never relinquish.

That was the game, Minnesota would take the lead 11:13 into regulation, the first lead the Gophers have had in ages against the Nittany Lions, but it would last just four minutes before Cole Hults scored his first goal since early in the season to tie the game up. A low scoring affair after 20 minutes of play.

Postseason play indeed.

Nate Sucese's power play goal would give Penn State a 2-1 lead, one that would hold for much of the period. Scott Reedy's score with just under five minutes to go in the second period reminded an otherwise enthusiastic Pegula Ice Arena that this wasn't going to be easy.

But then Denis Smirnov picked up his second point of the night, a tight angle shot that beat Mat Robson past the pipe. A game turned 3-2 in the final minutes of the middle frame.

That could have been enough, but Andrew Sturtz wasn't done.

"I came to the rink today and just wanted to lead by example," He said after the game.

Sturtz did that an more, a smooth toe-drag and shot that beat Robson with just over a minute to go in the period turned the game on its head. A sixty minute contest suddenly swinging in the Nittany Lions' favor in the matter of seconds. The crowd roared, and Penn State skated off the ice with confidence.

For the most part the Nittany Lions held serve in the final period, Casey Mittelstadt's second of the game pulled the Gophers within one in the final five minutes, but Evan Barratt's empty net goal finished off any hope of a Gopher comeback and another third period lead turned another head scratching defeat.

As a result of the win the Nittany Lions are just one victory away from advancing to the next round of the Big Ten Tournament. Perhaps more importantly a win would likely punch Penn State's postseason ticket.

Something that seemed unlikely not long ago.

But sometimes all you need is momentum.


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