By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After defeating No. 8 Minnesota in a dominating 5-1 win, No. 18 Penn State gained a much-needed confidence boost. With the postseason right around the corner, it's an optimal time for the Nittany Lions to heat up.
"I think that was probably the most complete game that we've played this year both offensively and defensively," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said.
Forward James Robinson opened the scoring early in the first period, ending a scoring drought for the Nittany Lion leader. He was also quick to note postgame how good it felt to finally put one between the pipes.
Robinson's efforts showed up on the scoreboard seemingly right from puck drop, evident in his aggressive skating as he battled for pucks.
"Jimmy was a catalyst right from the first shift," Gadowsky said. "I also thought his two line mates were equally productive throughout the game."
Alongside linemates Sam Sternschein and Nikita Pavlychev, it was Sternchein who added an assist on a dramatic late third period goal scored by fellow freshman Evan Barratt.
Just out of the penalty box, Barratt laid a huge hit in the Gophers' defensive zone, setting the stage to get the puck back before launching it into the back of the net. Although Barratt has been an offensive option throughout the season, the Nittany Lions will look for a performance like this to give him some extra confidence heading into the postseason.
"To have success against such a great team I'm sure [will be] a really good confidence booster," Gadowsky said.
Barratt wasn't the only one of his linemates to get pucks past the Minnesota goalies, with forwards Liam Folkes and Alex Limoges also scoring in Penn State's 3-goal third period.
Through all the line changes the coaching staff has experimented with this season, the second line has remained mostly untouched. Due to Gadowsky's confidence in the line, he was hardly surprised to see their success come to fruition Friday night.
"That line was great," Gadowsky said. "It's really nice to see them rewarded with all three of them getting goals."
Headed into the weekend, Penn State opted to shift its attitude toward postseason-mode for the last few weeks in preparation for a strong finish.
"The conversation a few weeks ago was that this is playoffs, this is crunch time," Robinson said. "With it being where it is now, it's obviously amplified a little bit more."
With the mindset yielding consistency, the Nittany Lions achieved what they set out to accomplish, but it's not over yet. One game still remains in the regular season and the Nittany Lions aren't changing a thing when it comes to mindset.
"We played probably what I thought was our best game of the year," Robinson said, "So, same mindset tomorrow."
Penn State and Minnesota wrap up the regular season Saturday, Feb. 24 with a 7 p.m. puck drop inside Pegula Ice Arena.