Penn State has not led the shot count too many times this season.
The Nittany Lions had a decisive advantage Monday night against the nation’s top team, but it did not mean much.
Sam Warning scored twice for Minnesota as the No. 1 Golden Gophers completed a sweep of a two-game series to open Big Ten play at Pegula Ice Arena with a 5-2 victory.
With 6,154 in the building, including new football coach James Franklin, Travis Boyd and Nate Condon each had a goal and an assist and Justin Kloos hit an empty net with four seconds left.
Kenny Brooks and Curtis Loik scored goals for the Nittany Lions (4-12-1, 0-4 Big Ten), who were feeling good about their series despite suffering their ninth loss in the last 10 games.
“I thought we generated a lot more chances,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I felt really good about the chances we had. What doesn’t show up here is we hit a crossbar, we hit a post, I thought we sort of missed an open net on a 2-on-1 rebound and I thought we generated some legitimate good chances so I felt good about that.”
The Golden Gophers (15-2-3, 5-0) may have had the more talented team overall, but the Nittany Lions managed six solid periods.
“They are the No. 1-ranked team and at times we had them there,” Brooks said. “We had to step forward.”
Penn State finished with a 38-25 advantage in shots, the third-biggest disparity in a game this season.
“You certainly don’t expect that,” Gadowsky said. “We are happy with that performance. As you know, the No. 1 team in the country doesn’t need … a ton of opportunities to finish and they did that, so give them credit.”
For the most part goalie Eamon McAdam picked up where he left off in Sunday’s 3-2 loss with several more spectacular saves until late in the game. For the Nittany Lions, there was no question the freshman would get back-to-back starts after he made 42 saves Sunday. McAdam finished with 20 saves Monday night.
“I thought he played a great game yesterday and started to get confidence,” Gadowsky said. “We wanted to get him back right away for a couple reasons: One, to continue that process of confidence, but also it’s deserved.”
After Boyd started the scoring with a power-play conversion 2:25 into the game, Penn State nearly answered on its first power play, when Taylor Holstrom tried to roof the puck on a wrap-around attempt, but it bounced off the crossbar.
It was the first of many near-misses.
Later, as Penn State was killing a penalty, Patrick Koudys clanged a shot off the post on a 3-on-1 break. And then while killing another penalty in the third, Eric Sheid spun away from a Gopher and found himself in open space, sliding the puck ahead to David Goodwin on a breakaway, but the freshman could not slip the puck between Adam Wilcox’s pads for one of his 36 saves.
Warning scored late in the second, then added his second goal at 6:06 of the third, with his back to the net he lofted a shot under the crossbar from the left circle.
“I don’t think there was anything different,” Warning said of converting more scores despite having 20 fewer shots. “I think we bared down on our Grade-A’s (opportunities) and we had (Wilcox) in the back helping us.”
Brooks got Penn State on the board, banking in a shot off Wilcox from beside the net.
“We had it in their zone for — I don’t know how long,” Brooks said. “We were just cycling the puck in the corners, getting a couple chances, and their guy went to go grab it, missed it, and David Glen just kind of tapped it to me there and I hit it off the back of the goalie.”
The excitement lasted all of 17 seconds, when Condon slipped the puck under McAdam’s pads to put the lead at three again.
“It’s a momentum crusher there,” Loik said. “That’s the things we need to work on — our details. We have to come out every shift like our last.”
Loik stoked the home crowd again with 3:30 left, lifting a shot over Wilcox’s right shoulder from a tight angle and into the top shelf.
“(Luke) Juha made a great play in our defensive end and got me the puck,” Loik said. “I had my boys Glen and Brooks going though the middle, I took it wide and just let her go.”
But the Lions could not score again, and Kloos hit an empty net with four seconds left to close the night.
“There hasn’t been a road sweep in the Big Ten yet,” Warning said. “That was one of our goals this week was to get a sweep on the road.”