Penn State Hockey Moves On To B1G Semifinals With Big Win Over Wisconsin
Guy Gadowsky’s team had a job to do.
In order to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, Penn State has to win three games in three days to take the Big Ten’s automatic bid. Despite tying a season-low with 29 shots, the Nittany Lions scored five goals in a huge win over Wisconsin, setting up the program’s biggest game ever on Friday against Michigan.
How It Happened
Wisconsin entered the game playing its best hockey of the season while Penn State ended its regular season with three straight losses. On a small scale, that was evident in the game’s first few minutes as the Badgers took the game’s first five shots before the Nittany Lions surged and caught up. Soon after the teams played an outstanding 9:26 of non-stop play, the game had its first TV timeout and everyone got a brief rest. Forty seconds after play resumed, Minnesota native Eric Scheid took a chip from Luke Juha and opened the tournament’s scoring. He beat Matt Jurusik five-hole and put the Nittany Lions ahead 1-0 with 7:04 left in the first frame.
A few minutes later, the lead was doubled. Connor Varley ripped one from the point and a deflection down low made the play tough for Jurusik. A Badger inadvertently tipped the puck past the waiting Jurusik and despite a late too-many-men penalty, Penn State headed to the intermission up 2-0.
The second period started with trouble for Penn State. It killed the early penalty, but a big hit by Thompson drew a penalty. Unlike in the NHL, a goal during a delayed penalty doesn’t negate the upcoming advantage — Wisconsin freshman Luke Kunin cut the lead in half then his team had some more chances on a powerplay. Penn State killed it off and got an advantage of its own right after, though couldn’t capitalize.
A long stretch of the second period passed with back-and-forth but uneventful play. With six minutes left to go, Juha charged up the ice and fed Ricky DeRosa who roofed it past a screened Jurusik. Soon after, fellow senior and longtime linemate Tommy Olczyk scored on a breakaway to make the score 4-1 as the period concluded.
The third period started off far from how the Nittany Lions hoped. Wisconsin’s Grant Besse scored right at the start as Wisconsin took a 30-20 lead in shots and began amping up its offense. The momentum was only added to by an Andrew Sturtz penalty and although Penn State killed it and allowed only one shot, Wisconsin still took most of the following chances. Other than a Sturtz toe-drag at the other end, it was all Badgers.
Wisconsin pulled Jurusik with 2:34 left in the third period, needing two goals. Sturtz, Goodwin, and Berger all had chances to bury the Badgers but couldn’t find the net. Right after, a Badger ripped the puck past McAdam but off the pipe and out of play. McAdam held the door closed and Scheid added an empty-netter as Penn State moved on to the Big Ten semifinals for the second time ever.
Player Of The Game
Big players show up in big games, and Luke Juha did that tonight. When he was on the ice, he was the most imposing player on both defense and offense. It was the alternate captain’s first game back from injury and it didn’t look like he missed a step. Scheid and McAdam also had big games but Juha gets the nod this time.
Penn State has made it as far into the postseason as it ever has before. Michigan swept the Nittany Lions in the regular season, but Gadowsky’s team has momentum and it wants nothing more than to make the finals. Puck drop is at 5 p.m. Friday on the Big Ten Network.