Penn State Hockey’s Comeback Falls Short In Series Split With Wisconsin
Penn State, seeking a bye in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, all but needed a sweep of Wisconsin to keep its dream alive. Earlier in the week, head coach Guy Gadowsky announced that star goalie Eamon McAdam would start both games — it paid off in Friday’s win, but with the stage set, the goalie and defense faltered as the Badgers won 4-3 in game two.
How It Happened
Penn State had a much better start on Saturday than it did the night before. Despite an early Erik Autio penalty, the Nittany Lions controlled the flow of play and owned the faceoff circle. The solid start culminated five minutes into the period when Kenny Brooks scored his eighth goal of the year. The lead didn’t last too long, as Wisconsin responded about five minutes later and a loud crowd hyped up their team. Then, in another five minutes, the Badgers took the lead.
There are some empty seats, but the crowd at the Kohl Center is rowdy for the seniors' last home game. pic.twitter.com/4MMEXeA76D
— Onward Sports (@OnwardStSports) March 6, 2016
After one period, Wisconsin led 2-1.
Once again, Penn State started off the period hot but this time, the rest of it didn’t play out as anticipated. Autio found Alec Marsh on a breakaway, but he couldn’t finish. That momentum turned into another scramble in front of Wisconsin’s net, but as the Badgers racked up consecutive stops, the momentum began to tilt. Five minutes into the period, McAdam was beat once more as Wisconsin doubled its lead. One minute later, with 14 minutes to go in the frame, the lead was further extended after a defensive breakdown. Trailing 4-1, Gadowsky called timeout and put goalie Chris Funkey in the game.
Funkey played out of his mind for the remainder of the period, stoning the Badgers on more than one breakaway while stopping the Lions’ bleeding.
Penn State needed a hot start in the third period to have a chance. Funkey did his part in stopping great chances, but the Nittany Lions couldn’t find the back of the net in the first half of the period. On an eventual powerplay, a between-the-legs pass from Sturtz found Goodwin who made the score 4-2. With 1:42 remaining, Sturtz scored one of his own to set the teams up for an exciting finish, and despite a Wisconsin penalty and Penn State pulling its goalie, the Nittany Lions couldn’t finish the comeback and fell 4-3.
Player Of The Game
Chris Funkey | Freshman | Goalie
Without a doubt, Funkey kick-saved and kick-started his team’s comeback. Reminiscent of P.J. Musico last year, the third-string goalie played in relief of his starter and the team rallied around him, turning a 4-1 deficit into a 4-3 one.
The series we’ve been waiting for all year. Trailing Michigan by three points (though the Wolverines have a game in hand), Penn State travels to Ann Arbor next weekend trying to win a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament.