Saturday, February 4, 2017

Pregame Blog: Rem Pitlick & freshmen shine + Minnesota-Penn State Saturday Line Combinations

Saturday's Game Info

#6/4 Penn State at #7 Minnesota

Date: February 4, 2017
Time: 7:00 p.m. CT
Place: Mariucci Arena
Stream: BTN2Go (Free for cable subscribers)
Radio: 1500 ESPN
Nate is covering for tonight: St. Paul Pioneer Press

After spending yesterday's blog detailing secondary scoring from the bottom-six forwards, Minnesota goes out and gets four even-strength goals from its top-six in a 5-1 win against Penn State.

Minnesota's second line of Taylor Cammarata-Vinni Lettieri-Leon Bristedt was the best of the forwards during the first period, culminating with a late goal by Lettieri.

The Gophers' top line of Rem Pitlick-Justin Kloos-Tyler Sheehy took over afterwards as it has at times this year. (Sheehy, with a goal last night, has 12 in last 14 games. Matched by Northeastern's Zach Aston-Reese, no one in college hockey has scored more during that stretch. He also broke into the top 10 point scorers nationally.) The trio broke through for three goals in the second period, led by Pitlick.

The freshman forward had his first multi-goal game, scoring twice in a 3:41 span.

Both goals Pitlick scored came from crashing the net and getting rebounds, which was a little different than his other three this season. It was a conscious effort after missing a few chances over the past couple weeks and playing a team like Penn State, according to Pitlick.

"It's so hard to score goals now. Goalies are good. You're not going to beat goalies from 50 feet out so you have to be there for tips or rebounds, or a puck could ricochet off a skate," said head coach Don Lucia. "If you're not in the area, you're not going to create anything."

Of course Pitlick's first goal was an extreme example where Jake Bischoff's shot from the blue line went wide and caromed back off the boards to a perfectly-placed Pitlick for the rebound.

Minnesota's statement victory was one where all three phases of the game found success. The offense utilized its speed and scored five times on Nittany Lions goaltender Chris Funkey, who started after normal starter Peyton Jones gave up 11 goals in 2 losses. The defense held Penn State to a season-low 29 shots. Eric Schierhorn once again made the saves he needed to while getting the help of his defense to shut down the top two lines.

It took until the third period to notice Penn State freshman Denis Smirnov on the ice.

That said, I didn't think Pitlick was alone in stepping up his play among freshmen. In other words, based on how yesterday's blog turned out expect big things from the upperclassmen.

Defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf led the three-on-one rush which eventually resulted in Pitlick's second goal. The following shift Ryan Lindgren dove and, with Schierhorn out of position, blocked a rebound which would likely have resulted in a Penn State goal.

"I think all the freshmen are doing well," Pitlick said. "We're listening to the coaches and taking their word. They're great at developing players so we're just working hard and hopefully we can make good plays out there."

None of the three was perfect Friday, but each did something a little bit out of their comfort zone.

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers lines

Rem Pitlick (#15) - Justin Kloos (#25) - Tyler Sheehy (#22)
Leon Bristedt (#18)- Vinni Lettieri (#19) - Taylor Cammarata (#13)
Brent Gates Jr. (#10) - Mike Szmatula (#9) - Connor Reilly (#21)
Ryan Norman (#23) - Darian Romanko (#26) - Jack Ramsey (#16)

Jake Bischoff (#28) - Ryan Lindgren (#5)
Steve Johnson (#4) - Jack Sadek (#2)
Ryan Zuhsldorf (#20) - Ryan Collins (#6)

Eric Schierhorn (#37)
Nick Lehr (#34)
Brock Kautz (#1)

Minnesota's only change from Friday's lineup is Connor Reilly returning the favor from Friday, replacing Joey Marooney who replaced him.

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