Some musing from Happy Valley:
Bob Motzko’s team hasn’t had the best track record at Pegula Ice Arena in recent years. Minnesota’s last victory at the venue of the upcoming semifinal came all the way back in February 2017. Penn State has beaten the Gophers in seven of its last eight home meetings against them — including four straight at the tail end of the 2017-18 season.
Minnesota picked up a 3-3 tie that ended in a 3-on-3 overtime goal by Alex Limoges on February 21 of this year. That, however, is the only non-loss the Gophers have managed at Pegula Ice Arena since the start of the 2017-18 season.
The two sides last met in the Big Ten tournament in 2018, which is when the Nittany Lions picked up a sweep in the quarterfinal round at Pegula Ice Arena. Penn State also took down Minnesota in the 2017 Big Ten tournament at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit thanks to Erik Autio’s double-overtime winner that sent the team to its first-ever conference title game.
Despite all the time off Penn State will have, the team has no concerns about rust being a factor when it takes the ice again on March 14 in the tournament semifinals.
"Obviously, it's a long season and you're pretty bruised up. Guys get injuries, so it's great for us to kind of sit back, relax and then have another week to kind of get after it and prepare for the tournament," junior defenseman Cole Hults said. "I take it as a positive. Obviously, going into practices you want to be a little bit more intense against your teammates and make sure you're staying in that game shape."
Penn State understands that the extra rest even with its next game being at Pegula doesn't guarantee a deep run into the tournament. Many of the players pointed out last year when Penn State, the four-seed in the Big Ten Tournament, took down top-seeded Ohio State in Columbus following the Buckeyes two weeks of rest between the end of the regular season and the tournament semifinals.
Now the situation is reversed, and the Nittany Lions are hoping to avoid a similar result as last year's Ohio State team.
"I don't think it changes too much," Folkes said on preparing with the additional time off. "We're just focused on what we can control, and we can't control the outcome of the other games that are going on this weekend. We're just going to be practicing hard and working out, so that's all we can do right now. I don't think there's going to be any rust from us coming out for our first game."