MINNEAPOLIS -- Don’t make Minnesota Gophers co-captain Sammy Walker angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Well, unless you’re a Gophers fan.
After taking a hard hit in the second period of a game his team trailed, Walker responded with the tying goal and sealed the Gophers’ 4-2 win over Penn State with an empty-netter on Saturday.
“Sammy got nailed there, and I didn’t see it, but I was sticking up for him, just going by what the guys told me on the bench,” said Gophers coach Bob Motzko, who took a penalty for arguing that a Nittany Lion should be headed to the box for the hit. “After that, we seemed to get a little zip in our shorts and away we went.”
After falling in the series opener, the Gophers bounced back for a split with the Nittany Lions, improving to 5-1-0 in Saturday night games.
Mason Nevers tipped a shot from the point with his team on a 5-on-3 power play late in the third period for the game-winner. Matthew Knies also scored for the Gophers (8-6-0 overall, 5-3-0 Big Ten) who got 35 saves from Jack LaFontaine in the win.
“We just had more detail in our game, less turnovers, picking up sticks in front, coming back on the backcheck and picking up their guy. I think that was the biggest thing,” said Walker, who is now tied with Knies for the team lead with seven goals each.
Jimmy Dowd Jr. and Kevin Wall had goals for the Nittany Lions (7-6-0, 1-5-0), who got 25 saves from Oskar Autio.
“Both power plays were pretty darn good tonight, and in a tie game, how many (penalties) did we take in the third, or have to kill, including a 5-on-3,” Lions coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I thought Oskar battled as hard as he could and I thought he did a great job, but you give Minnesota a 5-on-3, it’s hard.”
The scoreless first period was filled with offense, even though no pucks crossed either goal line. The Lions, known for their propensity to shoot pucks from anywhere and everywhere, played their role early on, testing LaFontaine with 14 shots in the frame. Each team had a power play that was held scoreless.
The Lions finally broke the logjam early in the second, when Dowd scored his first goal of the season. Dowd played most of his youth hockey in New Jersey, but lived in Minnesota as a young child when his father was an alternate captain for the Minnesota Wild in the early days of the franchise.
Jess Myers of The Rink Live and Eric Vegoe of Gopher Puck Live recapped the Gophers' 4-2 win over Penn State on Saturday night.
Walker answered just past the midway point of the game, streaking down the right wing and sending a seeing-eye rocket into the upper left corner of the Lions net.
After Knies scored on the power play in the third to give the Gophers their first lead, the Lions answered only to see Nevers get the game-winner with two visitors in the penalty box.
“Anywhere in the back of the net will work. Put another point on the board, any way, any how,” said Nevers. “You kind of know this is a big-time moment. If they do get that (penalty) kill it’s a big momentum swing so we had to kind of do our job and get a goal, and we did that.”
The Gophers have a road series at North Dakota next weekend.
Minnesota 4, Penn State 2
Penn State 0-1-1—2
First period — No scoring. Penalties — Jackson LaCombe, MIN (hooking), 11:29; Paul DeNaples, PSU (hooking), 13:59.
Second period — 1. PSU, Jimmy Dowd, Jr. 1 (Ben Schoen, Christian Sarlo), 5:45. 2. MIN, Sammy Walker 6 (LaCombe), 11:51. Penalties — Chaz Lucius, MIN (hooking), 0:45; Bench (served by Mason Nevers), MIN (unsportsmanlike conduct), 12:39.
Third period — 3. MIN, Matthew Knies 7 (Ben Meyers, LaCombe), 4:57, (pp). 4. PSU, Kevin Wall 8 (Ryan Kirwan, Ben Copeland), 12:24. 5. MIN, Mason Nevers 5 (Brock Faber, Ryan Johnson, 14:49, (pp). 6. MIN, Walker 7 (Knies), 18:39, (en). Penalties — Connor MacEachern, PSU (tripping), 4:14; Brock Faber, MIN (playing with a broken stick), 5:52; Bench, PSU (too many men), 12:48; Tyler Gratton, PSU (hooking), 13:12.
Shots on goal — MIN 9-10-10—29; PSU 14-13-10—37. Goalies — Jack LaFontaine, MIN (37 shots-35 saves); Oskar Autio, PSU (29-25). Power plays — MIN 2-of-4, PSU 0-of-4. Referees — Sean Fernandez, Brett DesRosiers. Linesmen — Bill Hancock, Nicholas Bradshaw. Att. — 7,309.