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Gophers fall behind early, can't recover at Penn State

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Penn State left winger Alex Limoges (left) celebrated the first of his two goals on the night in the first period of the Nittany Lions' 7-2 win over the Minnesota Gophers on Friday night in State College, Pa. (Mark Selders / Penn State Athletics)5 / 6
Gophers forward Tyler Sheehy. University of Minnesota Athletics6 / 6

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- By Central Time Zone standards, Friday’s Minnesota Gophers game at Penn State started early. Unfortunately, so did the home team.

The Gophers surrendered three goals in both the first and second periods Friday, Feb. 8, marking the sixth time in the last six games that an opponent has scored three times in a period, as Penn State beat Minnesota 7-2. It was the Gophers’ third straight road loss.

Tyler Sheehy’s goals on a power play in the second period and on the first shot of the third period gave the handful of Minnesota fans who had made the long trip east their only opportunity to cheer. The Gophers (11-13-4 overall, 8-8-3-0 Big Ten) have now lost their last five games at Penn State. The five-goal margin made it their most lopsided loss of the season.

“This is sure not the way you want to start a hockey game, falling down 3-0,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said, noting that he felt the score wasn’t completely indicative of his team’s play. “The sad thing is they were three bad plays on our part...We’re down 3-0 but we were playing pretty well. We’ve all been in games like that.”

Alex Limoges had a pair of goals for the Lions (15-10-2, 7-9-1-1) who needed just over 13 minutes to open up a 3-0 lead on the Gophers and chase starting goalie Mat Robson from the nets. Most notably, they held the Gophers’ conference-leading power play to one goal on four opportunities. The Lions also scored on one of their two power plays in the game.

“They love to score in practice just as much as they love scoring in the game,” said Lions coach Guy Gadowsky of his top line of Limoges, Evan Barratt and Liam Folkes that combined for six points on Friday. “I think they really enjoy playing with each other. They have a blast.”

The Lions got their full-throated student section involved early, when Robson tried and failed to smother a rebound at the top of the crease. When Penn State added two more goals a minute apart later in the first, that was all for Robson, who gave way to Eric Schierhorn. Robson, who was making his 11th consecutive start, finished with six saves on nine shots.

“It’s just unfortunate those three goals were off mistakes. You can’t blame Robbie at all, he’s been playing great all season long,” Sheehy said. “He made the saves he should’ve made tonight, and unfortunately we didn’t do enough to help him out.”

Schierhorn stopped the first seven shots he faced, but a Penn State tap-in off a cross-ice pass made it 4-0 early in the second period. Motzko challenged the play, claiming that the Lions had been offside entering the zone, but after video review the goal stood.

“We went for the offsides, and it kind of looked like he was,” Motzko said. “(The officials) said they had a different angle on it, but we had to try it.”

Penn State led 5-0 before the Gophers had an answer. As has been their style of late, the Gophers’ power play provided a spark, when Sheehy ripped a shot from the left circle that caught the corner of the net over the left shoulder of Lions goalie Peyton Jones. Rem Pitlick, who had hit the pipe earlier in the period, assisted on the goal, running his consecutive games streak with a point to 10.

But the momentum was short-lived, as the Lions scored on a power play late in the second for a 6-1 lead, snapping a streak of 19 consecutive penalties killed by the Gophers. Sheehy beat Jones again in the opening minute of the third period The goal moved Sheehy into a tie with Neal Broten for 34th place on the Gopher program’s all-time scoring list.

“That’s really cool. I didn’t know that at all, but it’s an honor to be put in that company with a guy like that,” Sheehy said when he learned of the milestone. “He went on to have a great career and is a well-known Gopher, so anytime you get mentioned in that category it’s pretty cool.”

Schierhorn finished with 29 saves in relief for the Gophers, while Jones had 24 saves for the Lions.

Game Summary

Minnesota 0-1-1—2

Penn State 3-3-1—7

First period — 1. PSU, Liam Folkes 13 (Kevin Kerr, Evan Barratt), 2:28. 2. PSU, Nate Sucese 11 (Paul DeNaples), 12:11. 3. PSU, Alex Limoges 14 (Folkes, Alex Stevens), 13:11. Penalties — Kris Myllari, PSU (hooking), 6:37; Barratt, PSU (interference), 17:53.

Second period — 4. PSU, Cole Hults 4 (Brandon Biro, Chase Berger), 4:48. 5. PSU, Berger 11 (Biro, Alec Marsh), 12:05. 6. MIN, Tyler Sheehy 9 (Rem Pitlick), 13:57, (pp). 7. PSU, Limoges 15 (Kerr, Barratt), 18:46, (pp). Penalties — Cole Hults, PSU (slashing), 13:09; Ludvig Larsson, PSU (tripping), 16:22; Sammy Walker, MIN (holding the stick), 18:25.

Third period — 8. MIN, Sheehy 10 (Jack Sadek), 0:19. 9. Biro 8 (Berger, Marsh), 18:09. Penalties — Scott Reedy, MIN (high sticking), 18:52.

Shots on goal — MIN 12-8-6—26; PSU 13-13-16-42. Goalies — Mat Robson, MIN (9 shots-6 saves); Eric Schierhorn, MIN (33-29); Peyton Jones, PSU (26-24). Power plays — MIN 1-of-4; PSU 1-of-2. Referees — Jonathon Sitarski, CJ Beaurline. Linesmen — Tom DellaFranco, Joseph Hutek. Att. — 6,131.