Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Complete Sweep With 6-2 Win Over Minnesota
Nate Sucese wasn't even looking at the goal when he ripped six ounces of solid rubber towards Minnesota goalie Mat Robson's raised glove.
The puck found the net anyway, rattling off the post to add insult to injury.
It was that kind of night and that kind of weekend for Penn State as the Nittany Lions attempt to make a late postseason charge for the third-straight year.
In total it showcased what the Nittany Lions have strived for but have struggled consistently do, a pairing of its elite offense with reliable defense and dependable goaltending.
This weekend, that's exactly what they got.
Penn State out shot Minnesota 40-13 in the final two periods of regulation, it scored twice in a minute to swing the game, it converted on half of its power play chances and committed one penalty all night.
It got solid work from Peyton Jones, who looked calm and collected in net for two straight nights. It got offense from all four lines and consistent defense from nearly every paring it rolled out.
Even while Minnesota held a 2-1 lead midway through the second period, a 60-second surge by the Nittany Lions erased all momentum and much of the flickering hope the Gophers were protecting. Minnesota has now lost six straight at Pegula Ice Arena, giving up five or more goals in every single contest. Given recent history, keeping Penn State to just one midway through regulation was nothing short of a miracle.
But that hope didn't last, and just four minutes into the third period Penn State found itself ahead 4-2. Seven minutes in, 5-2.
And then Sucese, who corralled a bouncing puck on a long pass from Cole Hults, ripped an emphatic shot that rang off the post as loud as the crowd roared in the stands. It was his second of the night, third if you could one that was eventually overturned following a review.
Either way, 6-2.
There are plenty of things to be said about Penn State's weaknesses. The Nittany Lions have never been as good on the defensive end as they have been offensively. In fairness that kind of balance is a tough ask, but improvement in that area would have see Penn State with at least a few more wins to its name than it currently has.
And if you'd like, you can point to shot totals as inflated home-cooking or an offensive identity that is often assumed not to require skill as much as dedication.
That assumption would be wrong, but in the end the results speak for themselves.
Friday and Saturday, they spoke of domination.
Penn State will head next to East Lansing to face Michigan State, a team that has already proven to be well equipped to handle the Nittany Lions' attack. For all of the good hockey on display this weekend, Penn State did it against a team that it has grown increasingly accustomed to rolling over. Saturday was a shock only because it keeps happening, but not a shock given context.
More importantly to the bigger picture, one weekend isn't everything and two games aren't proof that Penn State has solved all of its issues.
But if the Nittany Lions play like they did the past 48 hours over the final six games of the season, they'll be booking another trip to Allentown with an eye on Buffalo beyond.
“I like a lot of things about this weekend,” Coach Guy Gadowsky said after the game “...The future will tell, but this feels like a really big weekend right now.”