Since its opening in 2013, the Pegula ice arena is considered one of the best home hockey conditions in the college.
Lately, however, Minnesota has probably not been a big fan of this building.
The Gophers, who finished second, two points behind Michigan, are looking to maintain their momentum this weekend at Penn State and win away from the Nittany Lions for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
The Gophers got off to a really good start in the Big Ten with a 6-2 record at PSU, but four defeats in a row to complete the 2017-18 campaign thwarted that success, and Minnesota went 0-2-1 in the next two seasons.
“I didn’t play (there) from freshman year, last year it was canceled and all, but it was definitely something I remembered,” Gophers junior striker Bryce Brodinski said of the Pegula game. “It’s a really interesting place to play. I always like to play in front of visiting fans, because they are always in your ears and seem to beat you up. They have a very good audience all the time, and we are very happy to play there. “
Last year’s series between them was one of eight games that Penn State canceled in February due to problems with COVID, and the two teams had to meet in Pegula before the suspension of the 2019-20 season, so this is the first opportunity for Minnesota to turn the tide in a positive direction almost two years later.
Minnesota coach Bob Mozko said there wasn’t much emphasis on where they were playing this weekend.
“We don’t talk so much about the place as about the team, because we play a lot in such places,” he said. “We’re talking about Penn State and what we need to do and the discipline we need to have in the game.”
The only thing happening in Minnesota is the fact that it is now on top, breaking away from Ohio and Michigan. These four victories were achieved despite the fact that the top three were missing from the Olympics.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Mozko told the media about how well the team played, knocking on the wooden podium. “Our guys just play good hockey. People are gaining strength, our freshmen are killing, our defenders are attacking, and we are making a goalkeeper. “
Even if they come out with the latest 5-1 record, this weekend the Gophers will face a different style of play than what they recently saw in Notre Dame, Michigan or Ohio.
“There’s no patience (Penn State), it’s a different animal,” Mozko said. “You need to be connected. We need to be very involved in our structure and make sure it is there because they are dangerous.
“We need to find a way to keep going this weekend.”
Brodinski agreed with his coach, adding that it was important not to accidentally create resentment for the Nittany Lions.
“They kind of wait to benefit from the turnovers, so they take the puck into the net and don’t let them in, and they make a breakthrough for them and just hold the puck and don’t throw it deep for them,” he said. “We’re trying to stop them from rushing in as many amazing people as they want.”
With both Minnesota and Michigan now going, and the fact that both return to the regular season finals next weekend, the Big Ten seem to be prepared for another close finish.
Wolverines are taking Ohio this weekend and heading to Notre Dame next week. Minnesota closes the regular season by hosting Wisconsin.