In its first Big Ten championship game in program history, No. 15 Penn State (23-11-2) beat No. 18 Wisconsin 2-1 in double overtime in front of a respectable sized crowd at the Joe Louis Arena. With the win the Nittany Lions are heading to their first ever NCAA tournament.
How It Happened
Penn State controlled the game early in the first period and spent most of the time in the offensive zone. The Nittany Lions were able to create multiple transition scoring chances following blocked shots and defensive zone interceptions. Midway through the period, Wisconsin eased its way back into the game and had a few scoring opportunities of its own. With 7:03 remaining in the period, Penn State forward Alec Marsh was the unfortunate recipient of a brutal hit. The play was reviewed; however, no penalty was awarded. Less than a minute later, Penn State would go on the power play after Wisconsin forward Cameron Hughes crashed into Peyton Jones and was called for goalie interference. The Nittany Lions would capitalize just after the power play expired and take a 1-0 lead at the 15:43 mark as Liam Folkes snuck one five hole past Wisconsin goalie Jack Berry.
.@PennStateMHKY strikes first!
Liam Folkes lights the lamp and the Nittany Lions lead 1-0: https://t.co/uclN64WfJS
— Penn State On BTN (@PennStateOnBTN) March 19, 2017
Penn State almost cashed in again a few minutes later as it rang a shot off the goalpost. Jones came up with a couple nice saves in the last two minutes of the period that allowed Penn state to remain in the lead. At the end of one, Penn State led 1-0 and held a 8-7 shot advantage.
The Nittany Lions found themselves on the penalty kill early in the second period, but they were sound defensively and were able to kill it off. The middle half of the period featured back and forth action, with neither team able to grasp complete control of the game. Andrew Strutz created a three-on-one opportunity for the Nittany Lions with eight minutes remaining in the period; however they were unable to punch one in as the rebound got lost in a scrum in front of the net. Penn State effectively set up several screens in the offensive zone but Berry was equal to the task on every attempt. A late highlight of the period came when Penn State’s Trevor Hamilton played down the law and absolutely bundled a Wisconsin attacker. At the end of the second period, Penn State still led 1-0 and held a 17-15 shot advantage.
The opening five minutes of the third period were very sloppy as both teams had a plethora of neutral zone turnovers. Wisconsin, needing an automatic bid to make the NCAA tournament, turned on the pressure and had several shots from the slot but Jones was able to stop them all. With 8:40 remaining in the period, Wisconsin went on the power play after Erik Autio headed to the box for tripping. Wisconsin finally got one past Jones just 35 seconds into the power play, as Matt Ustaski batted home a point blank rebound. The Badgers continued to put pressure on Penn State as fatigue noticeably started to set in after a double overtime game last night. Wisconsin was on the verge of taking the lead as a forward fired a shot that was destined for the top corner, but Jones was able to make another massive glove save. At the end of regulation, the score was tied 1-1 with Wisconsin leading 33-22 in shots.
Wisconsin spent the majority of the overtime in the attacking zone and once again Jones stood on his head to extend the game. The Nittany Lions were hanging on by the skin of their teeth and were visibly gassed. If Jones wasn’t other worldly good tonight Penn State would have lost this game a million times over. If I were an NHL scout I would sign him immediately. Penn State came inches away from victory with six minutes left when David Goodwin dove and fired a shot that was stopped by the back of a defenders skate on the goal line.
Under review. pic.twitter.com/Wu48FVnCcy
— Onward State (@OnwardState) March 19, 2017
Wisconsin went on a power play late in the first overtime and it seemed to last a quarter century. The badgers hit the crossbar but Penn State escaped unscathed. Neither team could score and the score remained 1-1 at the end of the first overtime.
Penn State and Wisconsin shared great scoring chances in the first three minutes of the second overtime. Kris Myllari made a game saving block in front of a wide open net to extend the game. Goodwin led a three-on-two charge and was centimeters away from ending the game but the shot missed wide. Wisconsin countered with a three-on-one and rang a shot off of the goalpost. Penn State finally broke the deadlock and ended the game with 13:17 remaining when Folkes scored five hole on a breakaway. Final scored ended as 2-1 with Wisconsin outshooting Penn State 52-34.
- BIG TEN CHAMPIONS!
- There is a first time for everything and the Nittany Lions just crossed two things off of their check list. For the first time ever Penn State hockey has won the Big Ten championship and is heading to the NCAA tournament. Let’s go.
- Peyton Jones played lights out the entire tournament and came up big again tonight with 51 saves. He only gave up 5 goals in thirteen total periods while stopping 118 out of 123 shots. If you were wondering that is pretty spectacular.
- For the third consecutive game, Penn State scored first and for the third consecutive game the Nittany Lions emerged victorious. Fast starts are essential in order for Penn State to succeed.
- The Nittany Lions have strung together three straight fantastic hockey games, which not only won them a Big Ten championship but gives them momentum heading into the NCAA tournament.
- Penn State has now won the Big Ten championship in hockey and football, with both wins coming against Wisconsin. Not only has Penn State had the badgers number this year, it now owns so much real estate in their minds it’s unbelievable.
- Andrew Sturtz has taken about 1,000 bone crushing hits this this weekend and I’m not sure how he his even walking let alone skating.
- Guy Gadowsky, what a dude. Elite hockey personality.
With the win Penn State secured an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and will find out its regional location and seeding tomorrow during the NCAA selection show at noon on ESPNU.