Know Your Enemy: No. 14 Penn State Hockey Needs To Find Way To Win Against No. 18 Wisconsin
No. 14 Penn State men’s hockey could not find a way to snap its current four-game winless streak Friday night as No. 18 Wisconsin took game one of the teams’ series at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin.
Liam Folkes and Denis Smirnov scored for Penn State, but three Wisconsin goals in the third period doomed Guy Gadowsky’s Nittany Lions. The team has lost a season-high four consecutive games in regulation, so expect Penn State to play with a great deal of desperation throughout game two of the series. Can Wisconsin complete the sweep over Penn State or will the Nittany Lions bounce back from their current skid?
Adjustments: Penn State
All things considered, Penn State played pretty well during Friday night’s game. The defense was extremely strong throughout the first 40 minutes of the game, but caved into the Badgers’ aggressive forecheck and large amount of pressure in the final period of play.
The team is starting to find ways to score goals after its 167-minute goalless drought over the Ohio State and Michigan series, but it needs to consistently find ways to put the puck in the back of the net. The Nittany Lions were shut out in the final two periods of tonight’s game in a stretch that included many missed opportunities. Sam Sternschein and Liam Folkes both rang shots off the iron Friday night and James Robinson was robbed by Badger netminder Jack Berry in the second period.
Defensively, Penn State did well to stay out of the penalty box; continuing this discipline Saturday night will be a major key to victory. The only adjustment the defense needs to make has to do with withstanding late pressure. The team failed to lock up defensively while holding a 2-1 lead and was perhaps too aggressive in the third, as Will Johnson made an unbelievable play on the game-winning goal, but he was left virtually uncontested in front of Peyton Jones’ goal.
The biggest adjustment Wisconsin needs to make is simple: stay out of the penalty box. The Badgers took five minor penalties throughout the game and gave the best power play in college hockey way too many opportunities to score. Based on stats alone, Penn State’s 21.2 percent power play efficiency guarantees the team at least one goal if given five chances on the power play.
Wisconsin conceded a goal just over five minutes into tonight’s game. Although they came back to win Friday night, the Badgers cannot allow Penn State’s high-flying squad to gain momentum early with a quick goal. Getting off to a quick start Saturday could set up the Badgers with an extremely strong chance to win.
Jack Berry was excellent in goal, but the Badgers leaned on him at times during the game. He’s the hot hand right now after Friday’s victory and last Sunday’s 5-0 victory over No. 1 Notre Dame, but an offense like Penn State’s can get hot at any time and ruin any goaltender’s strong stretch of play.
Stat Of The Day
Penn State sophomore Denis Smirnov wired a wrist shot over the glove hand of Jack Berry late in the first period of Friday’s game. That goal was the Nittany Lions’ 100th of the season; they became the first team to hit 100 goals in the 2017-18 season on the play.
I said ‘split’ in my first prediction of this series, so I’m going to stick to that and say that Penn State eeks out a 4-3 victory Saturday night.