It was an exciting weekend to be a Penn State Hockey fan. The men were stationed in Detroit, Michigan and faced No. 5 Minnesota on Friday in what would become the victory that propelled the team forward to eventually win the B1G Ten Championship.
The 4-3 double overtime victory against the Golden Gophers was a nail-biter from the start.
Minnesota then dominated the rest of the period, finding the back of the net twice to give the Gophers a 2-1 edge heading into the second.
The lone goal of the second period came from Alec Marsh (Bridgewater, N.J.) thanks to an awkward backhanded shot by Chase Berger (St. Louis, Mo.) that ended up bouncing off of Marsh and into the Gophers’ net to tie up the score.
The rest of the second period was heated as both teams struggled to contain the opposing offense and gain some kind of advantage. Heading into the second intermission, both players and fans alike knew the game was far from over.
Dylan Richard (Sherwood Park, Alberta) came out guns ablazing in the first minute of the third period and gave Penn State a 3-2 advantage thanks to hard work and fast skating.
Not ones to give up easily, the Gophers returned the favor and once again tied up the game just two minutes after Richard’s goal.
Despite great efforts from both teams, the 3-3 score still stood at the end of regulation, thus sending the teams into overtime.
After an agonizing first overtime the score still stood at 3-3, causing double overtime, which is still sudden death.
It was Erik Autio (Espoo, Finland) who hammered in a shot thanks to a great pass from Denis Smirnov (Moscow, Russia) to push Penn State into the championship game the very next night against Wisconsin.
Penn State fans knew that the team would be tired going into the Wisconsin game less than 24 hours of playing one and two-thirds a game of hockey the night before.
In this 2-1 double overtime stunner, the scoring was low but the adrenaline was high.
Liam Folkes (Scarborough, Ontario) scored both of Penn State’s crucial and only goals of the evening. This freshman was putting all he had into this vital game for the Lions.
Folkes’ first goal came during the end of a power-play during a scuffle in front of the Badgers’ goal, where he gained control of the puck and artfully found the twine to give Penn State a 1-0 lead in the first period.
It was apparent that although tired, Penn State was not about to let exhaustion dictate the course of this game. The second period showed dominance by Wisconsin, but standout goaltender and post-game B1G Most Outstanding Player Peyton Jones (Langhorne, Pa.) stopped an onslaught of shots that rained down on him, keeping Penn State afloat.
Just after the midway point of the third period, Wisconsin caught a break and found a way past Langhorne to tie up the game 1-1. Both teams fought hard in the remaining nine minutes to find an advantage, but Penn State found themselves once again heading into overtime.
The teams killed off the first overtime period and Penn State did not give up, barely showing the pain and exhaustion the players were undoubtedly feeling.
Six minutes into the third period, Folkes noted that the Wisconsin defense had pushed high, giving him a chance to sneak out of their view, receive a pass from fellow freshman Brandon Biro (Sherwood Park, Alberta) in the neutral zone, take on the Badger goalie one-on-one, and tactfully place the puck in the back of the net, securing a 2-1 B1G Ten Championship for Penn State.
For a program that has only been around six years, this first B1G Ten Championship is a testament to the hard work of Head Coach Guy Gadowsky, the team, and the support of all Penn State fans.
Penn State will now enter into the NCAA Tournament for the first time, facing No. 6 Union College next Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Cincinnati, Ohio.