No. 14 Penn State Staves Off Wisconsin 2-1, Earns Crucial Three Points
Coming off an untimely bye-week, Penn State men’s hockey (20-9-4, 10-6-1 Big Ten) squared off against the last-place Wisconsin Badgers (6-17-8, 1-12-4 Big Ten) in the first leg of crucial two-game away series with an opportunity to earn vital Big Ten conference points. With the Lions sitting third in the conference standings, a win Friday night proved necessary to grab three points and stay in the competitive race for a prime seed at the start of the Big Ten tournament. Behind Eamon McAdam’s super star night in net, the Nittany Lions beat the Badgers 2-1.
How It Happened
The Nittany Lions started off the first frame lagging on both offense and defense, while Wisconsin showcased a definite intensity, especially in the Penn State zone. Luke Juha decided the slow pace wasn’t for him, and around four minutes in, he fired a couple hard shots from the blue line at opposing goaltender Adam Miller, all of were all easily cast aside by Miller’s blocker.
At around the 8:00 mark, Erik Autio poked away a 3-on-2 rush by Wisconsin in Penn State territory, causing the Badgers miss out on yet another offensive opportunity. After another Wisconsin set up in the Lions’ zone, McAdam made a sweet shoulder save to keep the Badgers at a mere three shots on goal.
On Penn State’s first powerplay opportunity of the night, a tripping call drawn by Marsh, Andrew Sturtz buried his 16th goal of the season on the man-advantage, giving the Nittany Lions a 1-0 with 5:28 remaining in the first period. David Glen and Kevin Kerr were credited with the assists.
Eamon McAdam spent most of the night coasting post-to-post in his own net and making spectacular saves when Wisconsin forwards had open-net opportunities. But after a questionable no-call for icing, Wisconsin’s Luke Kunin cashed in in front of the net after a nice feed by teammate Cameron Hughes and tied the game at one goal apiece. Guy Gadowsky erupted on the Penn State bench after the refs blew the call, but nothing ever came of his verbal challenge.
After the Lions failed to clear the puck in their defensive zone, Kunin fired another shot the net in hopes of sinking his second goal, but it was promptly cast aside after McAdam paddled it away with the bottom of his stick. The teams stayed knotted at 1-1 as the first frame came to a close, and Penn State held the 11-7 lead on the shot tally.
Looking to notch a go-ahead goal, the Nittany Lions charged out of the locker room hungry for a score, viciously attacking Miller’s cage. Zach Saar pushed the puck forward successfully on his shift, allowing Connor Varley to hoist a shot from the high slot and have it bounce around an out-of-position Miller, inches from the right post.
Riding on the offensive momentum, Tommy Olczyk created a breakaway opportunity where he beautifully dangled a forehand-backhand puck off his stick and past Miller for his 10th goal of the season. Penn State went up 2-1, and Chase Berger got the assist.
Down by a goal, Wisconsin started to heat up offensively as its forwards started to crash McAdam’s net more frequently. This didn’t faze the Islanders prospect. Another promising 3-on-2 advantage by the Badgers ended in a shot ricocheting off of McAdam’s crossbar, and a frustrated Wisconsin unit came up empty once again. The teams then traded a couple offensive rushes, but neither could connect with the net.Wisconsin’s Grant Besse then led a late charge of his own, ending in a ringer off the right post of McAdam’s cage. The second period ended with Penn State carrying a 2-1 lead.
The third stanza began with a rocket fired by Olczyk, but both it and its rebound were kicked away. Goodwin then took his turn, offering a sweet pass to Kevin Kerr for a try at Miller that got staved off. A 2-on-1 rush by Goodwin came shortly after, but it was shunned and led to a whistle. But it was clear that the Lions’ were easily skating circles around the Badgers.
Another lopsided rush by Penn State boosted David Glen to a 3-on-1 advantage, but his shot went wide. During the final period, Miller was a perfect brick wall, stopping shot after shot to stop play and force faceoffs. However, the Nittany Lions led the shots on goal tally 26-19, so the goaltender had his work cut out for him.
At the 10:50 mark, iron continued to be Penn State’s best friend, as Wisconsin’s Wagner rang a try off the post. Miller got forced out of his net to make a save against another Goodwin wrister, where he spent a lot of the night making saves.
With just under five minutes left to play, a flurry of chances by the Badgers all got cast aisde by a couple Penn State defenders, but Wisconsin wasn’t about to lay down without a fight. It exhausted the Penn State defense, but as it did, it couldn’t land any shots on net.
Matching minor calls for post-whistle shoving paved the way for the final two, exciting minutes of play, and 4-on-4 hockey commenced. After the pair of penalties were killed off, Goodwin notched a cross-checking call of his own, giving Wisconsin its first man-advantage of the night.
In the Badgers’ last-ditch effort, and after pulling their goalie as the final seconds ticked down, McAdam and the rest of Penn State scrambled and made a ton of saves off every punch the Badgers threw at them. The Lions pulled off a 2-1 victory in Madison, marking their 20th win of the season, and seventh straight win against Wisconsin.
Player Of The Game
Eamon McAdam | Junior | Goaltender
Guy Gadowsky made the executive decision to sit senior Matt Skoff and give the starting role to Eamon McAdam for the remainder of the season, and did that decision ever pay off. McAdam played an beautiful game between the pipes, reaching a major league-caliber level in each of his saves. His skillset without a doubt stunned every fan in attendance at the Kohl Center, leaving no doubt as to why he’s a top Islanders prospect.
— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) March 5, 2016
The Nittany Lions return to the Kohl Center Saturday, March 5 set for a rematch against Wisconsin in the second chapter of the two-game series in Madison. Faceoff at center ice is slotted for 8 p.m.