Winless Penn State will test Gophers men’s hockey with frenetic pace

When the Gophers men’s hockey team defeated Ohio State 2-0 last Saturday to split the series, coach Bob Motzko described it as “pretty close to as complete of game we’ve played all season.”

“Start to finish, all four lines stayed strong,” he said.

This weekend’s series against Penn State presents a new challenge for the Gophers. The Nittany Lions will test their patience with their frenetic offensive style.

“It’s a totally different style from what we saw from Ohio State,” said Motzko. “They shoot the puck from anywhere. They like to play with speed. Up and down. Transition. They’re throwing that puck at the net from all over the rink.”

The Nittany Lions (6-5, 0-4 Big Ten) have outshot their opponents 401-315 this season. They have had more than 35 shots on goal in seven games and more than 40 shots on goal in four games. They have outscored their opponents, 36-35.

“You have to pay attention and you have to be ready for it,” said Motzko. “It’s not the first shot, it’s how you play the second shot.”

Another challenge for the Gophers (7-5, 4-2) in the series opener will be trying to end an early-season trend. Four of the Gophers’ five losses have come in the opening game of a series — three of them at home.

“It starts in practice,” said senior Ben Meyers, who is tied for second on the team with 10 points (four goals and six assists). “We just have to show up every day and get better. Monday through Thursday translates into the weekend.”

Penn State brings a four-game losing streak into the series. The Nittany Lions have been swept on the road by Ohio State and Michigan the previous two weekends.

Ben Copeland, a senior from Edina, has eight points (three goals and five assists), and former Gopher Clayton Phillips, a senior from Edina, has seven points (three goals and four assists) for the Nittany Lions. Kevin Wall leads the Nittany Lions with seven goals.

The Gophers went 2-0 against Penn State last season, with both games in Minneapolis. Two games scheduled to be played at Penn State in February were canceled because of positive COVID cases within the Nittany Lions program.

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