MINNEAPOLIS — Sam Warning helped the Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey team earn a two-game sweep in its first Big Ten series at Penn State earlier this season with a pair of goals.
With the Nittany Lions coming to Minnesota this week, Lucia asked Warning for more of the same. The junior forward, and his linemates Kyle Rau and Hudson Fasching, obliged on Friday in the opener of the final regular-season home series of the season for the No. 2 Gophers.
Warning tied the game with his 12th goal of the season in the first period. Rau and Fasching also scored and Minnesota’s top line accounted for four points in a 5-1 win against Penn State.Minnesota’s top line accounted for four points in a 5-1 win against Penn State.
"I thought they had great energy," Lucia said of the line of Warning, Rau and Fasching. "Sam was on his game tonight. And I was kidding Sam during the week that he had a good week out at Penn State and we need him to continue to score. That was a nice play on that first goal. Hudson played well, Kyle played well and I thought they really got us going tonight."
The Gophers also received goals from Taylor Cammarata and Nate Condon to win their third straight game. Condon’s seventh goal capped the scoring and was the team’s first shorthanded goal this season. Adam Wilcox made 30 saves in goal for Minnesota (22-4-5, 11-2-2-0 Big Ten).
With 34 points in 15 Big Ten games, the Gophers are closing in on a potential conference title in the first season of the Big Ten. They lead Wisconsin, which has 31 points in 16 conference games.
Off a weekend bye, Minnesota’s first line took control and accounted for 11 shots on goal as the team outshot the Nittany Lions 36-31.
"We had a nice week off, got a little bit of rest," Fasching said. "We’re back together after a little bit of a break and we’re just happy to be together and firing on all cylinders right now. We’re just happy with our play."
Penn State opened the scoring with a power-play goal 3 minutes, 12 seconds into the game before the Gophers’ first line got going. Warning tied things 4:43 later and Fasching finished off a scrambling sequence just over three minutes later for his 12th goal of the season and put Minnesota in control.
With the puck bouncing around, Nittany Lions goaltender Matthew Skoff couldn’t control the puck in the scrum. Travis Boyd, who finished with two assists, eventually controlled the puck and skated behind the Penn State net and centered to Ben Marshall for a shot. Marshall’s shot caromed off Skoff and Fasching was there to put the puck away.
Rau added his eighth goal of the season in the first period. It was the first time all season each member of the top line scored in the same game.
"We’ve played together for most of the year, so I think just practicing with each other and playing the games," Warning explained. "We’ve been kind of clicking. But we’ve played with each other all year so we kind of know each other on the ice."
Minnesota wraps up its home schedule against the Nittany Lions on Saturday for Senior Day and Lucia said senior goaltender Michael Shibrowski could play in his second game of the year. The Gophers have two road series to end the regular season, at Ohio State and Michigan.
Lucia knows he’ll need more of the same from Warning and his linemates as the season progresses.
"The bottom line is the guys that we needed to score scored goals tonight," Lucia said. "You look at the guys off our top two lines, they were our goal scorers tonight and as you get down to the end, you have to be able to count on your key guys night-in and night-out. Tonight they came through."