The Penn State men’s hockey team was brought down to earth in a big way Saturday afternoon.
Combining turnovers, shaky defense and a lackluster offense, not to mention a tough opponent, the Nittany Lions had a rough time at Pegula Ice Arena.
Hudson Fasching scored two goals, Justin Kloos had a goal and three assists and Minnesota scored three shorthanded goals in a 7-1 victory.
It gave the Golden Gophers (9-10, 4-2 Big Ten) a split of the weekend series.
Leon Bristedt, Tyler Sheehy, Vinni Lettieri and Ryan Norman scored the other goals, and freshman Eric Schierhorn made 29 saves for the win.
“That’s a level that I think this program would like to rise to at some point,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “This was a good reminder that we’re not there yet.”
Vince Pedrie accounted for the Nittany Lion scoring, and Matthew Skoff stopped 25 shots for No. 15 Penn State (13-4-3, 3-1), ending his personal eight-game unbeaten streak. The Lions suffered their largest home loss in program history, and were held to a season-low 30 shots.
“It’s just a learning step for us,” captain David Glen said. “We’ve got to work harder, we’ve got to be able to compete right off the opening hop there. I thought we weren’t at our best this weekend.”
The three shorthanded goals were the toughest to take.
“We have to be better,” Gadowsky said of what went wrong on the power play. “It’s not an offensive strategy, it’s execution in what we do. We don’t have to change anything.”
Just seconds into Penn State’s first power play of the game, the Gophers were instead the team to capitalize, with Kloos finding Fasching ahead on a break to slip the puck past Skoff.
“Shorthanded goals are kind of back-breakers,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “It’s something we talked about coming in, (Penn State) had seven (this season). It was nice to see us get a couple.”
The other two were scored in the third period. With Penn State on a four-minute power play thanks to a double-minor penalty, Gadowsky decided to pull Skoff to give the team a 6 on 4 opportunity. Instead, Kloos converted into the empty net, and later swiped the puck and fed it up on Fasching.
“I don’t think I’ve had two shorthanded goals in a season, much less a game,” Fasching said. “It’s incredible. It’s fun to be able to do that. Obviously I had a lot of help out there.”
Bristedt put the Gophers ahead 7:53 into the game, beating Skoff with a low wrist shot.
“Kind of getting the first punch in was definitely helpful,” Fasching said. “You could tell that it hit them hard.”
The margin went to three when Kloos fired the puck from near the blue line wide of the net, but it bounced off the boards to Sheehy.
The Nittany Lions had their own shorthanded opportunity late in the second when Eric Scheid had a breakaway but couldn’t get the puck under the pads of Schierhorn.
It got worse 91 seconds into the third period when Lettieri picked the Nittany Lions’ pocket in front of Skoff and beat him for a four-goal lead.
Pedrie, with help from Dylan Richard and David Goodwin, broke the shutout with 3:39 left, firing the puck from the boards.
Norman finished the drubbing with 2:35 left.
“That’s one of the best programs in the nation,” Glen said. “Shows how far we’ve come, but how far we have to go to be a top team like that every night.”
Notes: Penn State is home again next weekend, hosting Wisconsin. ... Nick Seeler had two assists for the Gophers. ... The announced attendance was 6,105, the 26th straight sellout for the program, with the general public filling the student section with students gone for holiday break. ... Both teams were 0 for 4 on the power play. ... The Lions have now killed their last 13 penalties.