The Nittany Lions are licking their wounds after a trip to Minnesota.
Led by Leon Bristedt’s hat trick, the No. 7 Minnesota men’s hockey team overpowered No. 6 Penn State 5-2 Saturday night at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
Turnovers, defensive breakdowns and the inability to dictate tempo all played a role in the Nittany Lions extending their winless streak to five since reaching the No. 1 ranking in the nation. They have allowed at least five goals in their last four games — all losses.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit of late possibly with our work ethic and just getting back to what we do,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky told the media in Minneapolis. “I thought we did (play better Saturday). Unfortunately we didn’t get the ‘W’ against a great team in a very hard place to play.”
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Alec Marsh and David Goodwin scored the goals for Penn State (16-6-2, 5-4-1 Big Ten) while Peyton Jones was sharp early but the victim of the many breakdowns, making 23 saves in the loss.
“Give them a ton of credit — they finished,” Gadowsky said. “They had some beautiful goals. You can’t fault Peyton Jones at all because they finished. They made some great plays.”
Brent Gates and Taylor Cammarata had the other goals for the Golden Gophers (17-7-2, 8-2), who have won 10 of their last 12, and Eric Schierhorn made 38 saves.
Penn State shuffled a number of lines Saturday night, necessitated by the loss of Dylan Richard to an upper body injury, according to Gadowsky.
A beautiful pass from Andrew Sturtz set up Marsh’s goal to open the scoring, with a feed from the corner finding Marsh unchecked in front of the net, faking out Schierhorn to give him a backhand into an open net.
The lowlight of the first period came during Penn State’s first power play, when the puck got away from Liam Folkes in the neutral zone and Bristedt outhustled the freshman to the puck for a breakaway score.
“That was a bit of a killer,” Gadowsky said. “We had to regroup from that. That’s really what started it.”
Goodwin put Penn State back in front in the first minute of the second period, poking in the puck after Chase Berger danced from the boards through a couple Gophers before feeding the senior captain.
The Gophers then seized the momentum with a pair of goals 1:14 apart. First, Gates fired in a one-timer off a nice feed from behind the net by Mike Szmatula, then Cammarata knocked in a rebound to give his team the lead.
They extended the lead when Vinni Lettieri made a pinpoint feed from the corner to Bristedt at the far post for a power play goal late in the second, then Bristedt completed the hat trick with a wide-open one-timer from Steve Johnson’s feed from beside the net.
With goals that were shorthanded, even strength and on a power play, Bristedt has 11 scores on the season.
“(Friday) night I don’t think we showed how we can play at all and we weren’t happy with how we played,” Gadowsky said. “Tonight, to be honest with you, we’re happy with how we played. We didn’t get a ‘W’ at Mariucci against the Gophers. That’s nothing to be upset about.”
It won’t get easier for the Nittany Lions next weekend, returning to the midwest to meet Wisconsin next Friday and Saturday. The Badgers are tied with Minnesota atop the Big Ten.