Like Minnesota, Penn State may be without one of its top players Friday night in Detroit when the Nittany Lions face the Gophers in a Big Ten semifinal.
PSU leading goal scorer Andrew Sturtz left in the first period of Thursday’s 4-1 win over Michigan. He did not return following a collision with Wolverines forward Alex Kile and Penn State used 11 forwards the rest of the night.
“That’s above my pay grade. I’m going to find out later on,” head coach Guy Gadowsky responded when asked about Sturtz’s status for Friday.
Sturtz has 21 goals in 33 games this season, including one against Minnesota in the four games between the two teams.
The Gophers lost freshman defenseman Ryan Lindgren to a season-ending leg injury last Saturday. That loss necessitates shuffling around the defensive pairings.
At mid-week availability head coach Don Lucia mentioned Jack Sadek would likely take Lindgren’s spot on a defensive pairing with senior Jake Bischoff. Jack Glover, who has sat out all but 4 games since late December, will skate with Steve Johnson.
“When you get into the game you can obviously move some people around whether it’s the D or forwards based on how people are playing,” said Lucia. “If six D play good, then six D will play. If not, we’ll shorten the bench.”
However, Minnesota is planning on getting back redshirt junior Mike Szmatula for Friday, which would be a homecoming for the Commerce Township, MI native (about 35 miles northwest of Joe Louis Arena). Szmatula, who has 25 points in 26 games, ended up missing both road series in Michigan this season due to injuries. He’s been out since February 17th with a lower body injury suffered against Penn State.
Puck drop tonight is at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT.
Minnesota defeated Penn State in all four meetings between the two teams. The last, a 4-3 overtime win February 18th, came in heartbreaking fashion for the Nittany Lions. Penn State went from a go-ahead penalty shot goal with less than 90 seconds left to giving up a game-tying goal with 3.5 seconds remaining and eventually losing on a Rem Pitlick overtime winner.
Being in the building, it was the highest of highs and lowest of lows in about a 15 minute span. Penn State’s eruption for the Denis Smirnov penalty shot was the loudest Pegula Arena had ever been, according to some of the writers covering PSU.
So you can say the Nittany Lions are looking forward to playing Minnesota for a fifth time.
“I'd like to think we learned something from that, but really it was the games in Pegula Ice Arena, specifically the last game that we played a great game and ended up losing in the end,” Gadowsky said Thursday, taking the blame for the game-tying goal. “I can tell you that the guys are an excellent team, absolutely, for sure. But I think at that time in the locker room, it was one of, ‘boy, I’d like to try this again.’ So that’s the mentality.”
Sophomore defenseman VInce Pedrie is the only Minnesota native on Penn State’s roster. Pedrie, who calls Rochester home, played two years at Apple Valley HS (along with former Gophers Hudson Fasching and AJ Michaelson). An all-Big Ten first team honoree alongside Bischoff on the blue line, Pedrie scored Penn State’s fourth goal Thursday and has 8 on the year.