Gophers men’s hockey tops Penn State in series opener

It was a night of milestones for the No. 7/6 Minnesota men’s hockey team during a 4-1 victory on the road against the 18th-ranked Nittany Lions Friday night from Pegula Ice Arena.

Rhett Pitlick had a career-best three points, while reigning B1G First Star of the Week Bryce Brodzinski recorded the 100th point of his career with the eventual game-winning goal. Sam Rinzel joined the fun by scoring his first collegiate goal and the Golden Gophers (8-4-3 overall, 4-3-2 B1G) won for the fifth-straight time at Penn State (8-5-3 overall, 1-3-3 B1G).

The home side dominated the opening minutes of play and struck for a 1-0 lead 5:30 into the contest by redirecting a centering pass before the Gophers even put a shot on target. The Maroon and Gold quickly turned momentum and put away a pair of goals 92-seconds apart, late in the frame for a 2-1 edge. Rinzel got the scoring started at the 16:35 mark, taking a Pitlick feed and ripping home a shot from the slot, pulling Minnesota even, 1-1. With less than two minutes remaining in the period, Brodzinski one-timed a perfect pass from Jaxon Nelson past the PSU netminder and Minnesota scored twice on just three first-period shots on goal.

The Gophers tacked on another tally during the middle of the second stanza when Pitlick found a streaking Oliver Moore in the offensive zone. The freshman’s shot was stopped, but Connor Kurth followed the play and was rewarded for driving the net, burying the rebound. Minnesota stayed on the attack and finished off its first power-play chance three minutes later when Pitlick batted home a puck from mid-air and the visitors carried a 4-1 lead through two periods.

The Maroon and Gold erased an early third-period chance for the Nittany Lions on a man advantage and were content to stay behind the play with a three-goal cushion. Minnesota earned two more power-play chances with less than seven minutes in regulation and cruised to the 4-1 road victory.

Justen Close was tested all night as PSU put shots on frame but was pivotal to the Gophers’ success as he turned away 33 shots. It was the seventh time this season where the fifth-year senior made 30 or more saves to help keep Minnesota unbeaten over its last four games.