ST. PAUL, Minn. — Michigan forward Kyle Connor was going through the traditional postgame handshake line when he was approached by Penn State’s David Goodwin.
Goodwin wanted to share his thoughts about Connor, the Wolverines’ talented freshman.
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Garnering compliments isn’t new to Connor, the nation’s leading scorer and a first-round NHL draft pick last summer. Getting praise from an opponent in Friday’s situation isn’t as common; not when Connor scored four goals against Penn State and ended the Nittany Lions’ season in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.
Connor scored four goals, including three goals in less than nine minutes during the second period, to lead Michigan to a 7-2 win against Penn State.
“That’s kind of a cool honor to have,” Connor said of Goodwin’s message. “I mean, he’s a great player and, you know, that’s a good team over there in Penn State. But, you know, it doesn’t really change anything for me. I think we’ve still got a championship here to win.”
The Wolverines will play the winner of Minnesota-Ohio State in Saturday’s finals.
Goaltender Steve Racine made 40 saves for Michigan (23-7-5). JT Compher had five assists for the Wolverines. Max Shuart, Alex Kile and Cristoval Nieves also scored for Michigan, which entered play Friday with the nation’s highest-scoring offense.
Connor, the No. 17 overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft pick by the Winnipeg Jets, is a big reason. He leads the nation with 34 goals and 65 points. He notched his second hat trick of the season on Friday.
Since Connor, Compher and Tyler Motte were assembled on a line together Dec. 4, the trio have accounted for 63 goals in 24 games.
“I think you see all the skill set that Kyle has, especially today, on the two goals and the rush and then being able to finish and tidy,” Compher said. “He was able to score in a lot of different ways today and it was fun to see. He’s been doing it all year, so I think that it was good for our line and he definitely helped the team today.”
The numbers for Connor and the Wolverines have been padded against the Nittany Lions (21-13-4).
The two teams finished the regular season against each other at Michigan’s Yost Arena, with the Wolverines sweeping the weekend and the season series. In five games, Michigan scored 33 goals against Penn State, with Connor chipping in 10 of them.
“I can see them doing to other teams what they did to us,” Nittany Lions coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I think we keep their attention and they keep the pedal down, and that’s the result.”
Penn State outshot the Wolverines 42-39 and scored two power-play goals, one by Kevin Kerr and another from Luke Juha. But Michigan capitalized with three power-play goals in five chances.
Eamon McAdam started in goal for the Nittany Lions but allowed four goals on 18 shots. Matthew Skoff replaced McAdam midway through the second period and had 18 saves on 21 shots.
“A tremendous year by our team and our seniors took us a long way, a lot further than I think anybody thought they would,” Gadowsky said. “So, very proud of that.”