Nittany Lions win OT thriller to advance to Big Ten title game

DETROIT -- Penn State won the longest game ever played in the Big Ten hockey tournament Friday, and it likely counts as the program's biggest victory too.

Locked in a 3-3 tie with top-seeded Minnesota in double-overtime, Denis Smirnov put a perfect pass on Erik Autio's stick and the junior defenseman scored the game-winner.

The 4-3 win propels Penn State to its first-ever Big Ten Championship game where the Nittany Lions will face Wisconsin Saturday night.

Further, it likely locked up a spot in next week's NCAA tournament, another milestone for the young program.

"Extremely happy," head coach Guy Gadowsky said.

"A tremendous hockey game to watch. Obviously a great game to win. I thought everybody played great, really hard. Very, very happy to be playing here tomorrow. It was a big win for the program, not only for the Big Ten, but I think it probably solidified going into the NCAA tournament. So for us, it's a first. It's a big night."

The Nittany Lions have only been playing NCAA Division I hockey for four seasons and will now compete for the Big Ten title.

"A lot of schools have a lot of history," goaltender Peyton Jones said.

"This hockey program has been around not very long. All the things that we're accomplishing right now is history for the school. First time it's been done. It's pretty exciting for us."

Face-off is set for 8 p.m. Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.