Penn State hockey fans probably got whiplash Saturday night from the emotions of the final minutes.
When they left Pegula Ice Arena, they probably felt a lot of pain.
Minnesota’s Justin Kloos scored with 3.5 seconds left in regulation, and Rem Pitlick netted the winner with 1:33 left in overtime to give the No. 5 Golden Gophers a 4-3 win and sweep all four games from the No. 9 Nittany Lions on the season.
“Lot of ups and downs,” said David Goodwin, who scored for the Lions. “That was probably … the most emotional roller-coaster game I’ve been a part of.”
Denis Smirnov scored twice on highlight-worthy plays, including on a penalty shot that had given Penn State the lead with 1:26 left in regulation.
Jake Bishoff and Tyler Sheehy scored third-period goals for Minnesota.
“That’s a tough one, but that’s not the first tough loss that we’ve had, certainly not going to be the last,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “But it was against an excellent opponent in an excellent hockey game. Those are the type of games we know we’re going to have to play down the stretch.”
The game took some wild turns as the Lions were clinging to a 2-1 lead in the final minutes.
It started with Sheehy, the Big Ten’s scoring leader, tying the game with 2:11 left, sapping some of the crowd’s energy.
But 45 seconds later Smirnov was dragged down as he tried to break in on goal and was awarded a penalty shot. The freshman delivered, igniting the house with his 16th goal of the season.
“Didn’t do anything over my head, didn’t think what I’m going to do,” Smirnov said. “Just was doing what I usually do in practice.”
Penn State was trying to survive the final seconds, an icing call brought a faceoff back to the Nittany Lion end with seven seconds left, and off the faceoff Kloos fired one past Jones to force overtime.
“It’s not that we didn’t do what we wanted to do,” Gadowsky said. “Just one of those faceoffs.”
Given new life in overtime, Pitlick fired one from the top of the faceoff circle that found the net for his fourth goal of the weekend.
“I actually don’t know where it went but I was hoping to go top right,” Pitlick said of the game winner. “I don’t know where it ended up but it went in and we won the game so that’s what matters.”
The night’s first goal, a mere 3:17 in, was a pretty give-and-go as Smirnov and Nate Sucese broke in, with Sucese feeding the puck back to the freshman for the one-timer.
Goodwin netted his seventh of the season on a rush up the ice when Vince Pedrie attempted a pass across but whiffed on the puck, then managed to tap it back to the captain.
Bischoff got the Gophers on the board with a tap-in early in the third before the dramatic final minutes, leaving the Lions wondering how to recover.
“There’s a lot to play for right now,” Gadowsky said. “The success that the team has had throughout the year puts us in this spot, which is a pretty good spot, the highest spot we’ve ever been. I think there’s a lot to play for.”
Notes: Penn State hits the road next weekend with a visit to Michigan State. … Captain David Goodwin was honored as one of three finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, which earned him $1,000 he will be donating to Thon. The winner will be announced at the Frozen Four in Chicago in April. … For the second straight night Minnesota had a player tossed, this time Joey Morooney for a hit from behind on both Nikita Pavlychev and Trevor Hamilton.