A route back to the NCAA tournament starts with the Gophers facing Penn State, a team that has owned Minnesota of late. The Nittany Lions are 11-2-1 against the Gophers since the start of the 2017-18 season. Penn State scored 8-2 and 6-3 victories in Minneapolis last November before Minnesota got a 3-3 tie and a 3-2 loss in State College in February — both games in which the Gophers held third-period leads.
“They’ve kicked our butt the last handful of years,” Motzko said. “We were closing the gap, but we hadn’t closed it. They were a better hockey team than us a year ago. … But I’ll tell you: We wanted to play that [Big Ten semifinal] game.”