The Gopher hockey team and Penn State played a Big Ten Tournament classic Friday night. Both goalies stood on their heads, but finally Eric Autio scored on the power play at 13:33 of the second overtime to end the longest game in Big Ten Tournament history. Penn State advances to the Big Ten Championship game Saturday night and clinches its first ever NCAA Tournament bid.
Penn State took an early lead scoring on a rebound just under a minute into the game. The Gophers would strike back immediately as Rem Pitlick took a gorgeous pass from Tyler Sheehy to tie the game at one. Justin Kloos would give the Gophers a 2-1 lead as he ripped home a one-timer on the power play on a pass from Sheehy.
The Gophers would have their usual sub par second period as Penn State controlled the play. They would tie the game at two when Alex Marsh got credit for a deflection in front of the Gopher net. Gopher goalie Eric Schierhoirn thought he was interfered with, but after a review the goal stood and the game was tied at two going into the third period.
Penn State took the lead back again on a power play goal by Dylan Richard after a very questionable tripping penalty called on Mike Szmatula. Minnesota would return fire immediately after on a blast directly off a faceoff by Jack Sadek with 16:18 to play in the third period. Both teams had several good chances but both Schierhorn and Peyton Jones stood tall in their respective nets before sending the game to overtime.
In the first extra period, the Nittany Lions seemed to have an extra step, but neither team could score. Both teams had early looks in double overtime as well, but again the goalies stood tall.
Penn State went on the power play after Leon Bristedt was called for holding with 9minutes left in the second extra period. Minnesota made a big shorthanded rush but could not score and the Nittany Lions took advantage as they broke down the ice with numbers and Denis Smirnov hit a wide open Autio in front of the Gopher goal and he easily put the puck in the wide open net.
The Nittany Lions advance to play Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game Saturday night. The Badgers advanced over Ohio State 2-1 earlier on Friday. Wisconsin is playing for their season as only a win of the Big Ten Tournament will qualify them for the NCAA tournament--a position the Gophers were in last season before losing to Michigan in the title game.
Penn State locked up at least an at large bid with the win over Minnesota. The Gophers ended the night at #5 in the Pairwise rankings. Minnesota had risen up to #4 after losses by Western Michigan and Boston University, but dropped back after their loss. Minnesota appears destined for a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but they can bounce back up to the #1 seed line IF both Boston College defeats UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East Championship game, and Denver defeats Western Michigan in the NCHC Third Place Game.
The full field of the NCAA Tournament will be announced Sunday morning at 11 AM on ESPN U.