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No. 12 Penn State Hockey Thrashes No. 7 Wisconsin 6-1 In Big Ten Opener

No. 12 Penn State hockey (5-1-0, 1-0-0 Big Ten) took down No. 7 Wisconsin (4-3-0, 0-1-0 Big Ten) 6-1 on Halloween night at Pegula Ice Arena.

Peyton Jones’ stellar 38-save performance backstopped the Nittany Lions to their first conference victory of the season. The defense as a whole was excellent and neutralized a star-studded group of Badger forwards that included top-15 NHL Draft picks Alex Turcotte and Cole Caufield. Aarne Talvitie put up three points (one goal, two assists) to power Penn State’s offense.

Nate Sucese, Denis Smirnov, Alex Stevens, Sam Sternschein, and Evan Barratt also scored goals for Penn State on Thursday night.

How It Happened

Penn State got on the board with a Sam Sternschein deflection goal from center Nikita Pavlychev not even a minute into the game. The Nittany Lions kept the offensive pressure to a maximum following the goal, with back-to-back breakaways by Denis Smirnov and Brendan Biro. However, both attempts were stopped by Badger goalie Daniel Lebedeff.

A Pavlyvchev tripping penalty led to Wisconsin showcasing its power play team consisting of five NHL draft picks. Penn State looked strong on the penalty kill, which ended 19 seconds early due to an interference penalty on Wisconsin defenseman K’Andre Miller.

Penn State’s defense did a great job at complicating Wisconsin’s scoring opportunities in the first, but even when the Badgers did get clear chances, goalie Peyton Jones stopped everything that came his way in net.

After a scrum in net led to two penalties for the Badgers and one for the Nittany Lions, Evan Barratt buried a power play goal to give the Nittany Lions a 2-0 lead, and his first goal of the season, with a little more than four minutes left in the first period.

After another scrum involving Nate Sucese and Badgers captain Wyatt Kalynuk led to another handful of penalties, this time resulting in a power play for Wisconsin. The Badgers converted this time when Cole Caufield wired a wrist shot passed Jones with five seconds left in the period to make the score 2-1.

Penn State opened the second period strong as well, with defenseman Alex Stevens netting his first goal of the season with a post-hitting wrister from the blue line. The Turcotte/Caufield line upped its intensity during the first half of the second period, but Jones put his glove on display, snagging many shots and giving Penn State a ton of time to increase its lead.

The Nittany Lions did exactly that when Denis Smirnov netted a rebound from a Pavlychev shot that was set up beautifully by Brandon Biro and his elusive dangles. Smirnov’s second of the year extended Penn State’s lead to 4-1 with 11:55 to play in the second period.

Penn State shifted to a very conservative style of hockey, decreasing its sense of urgency on offense and switching to a pass-heavy style of attack in an effort to find the perfect shot. The team’s defense, however, did not let up, and the penalty kill stifled many opportunities for Wisconsin, making the Badgers more and more frustrated and physical.

This came to a head when Badger winger Roman Ahcan received a penalty for contact to the head, and, upon exit of the penalty box two minutes later, immediately speared Denis Smirnov into the boards with an incredibly dirty cheap shot. Ahcan received a five-minute major and was then ejected from the game after arguing with both the referees and Penn State’s bench.

Ahcan’s actions resulted in Penn State’s third power play goal of the night — a Nate Sucese rebound from a shot by Cole Hults that was sent sky high and retrieved by Sucese before goalie Lebedeff could get eyes on it.

Less than 30 seconds later, Aarne Talvitie put the icing on the cake with another rebound goal to close out the first game of this series in dominant fashion for the Nittany Lions.

Takeaways

  • Peyton Jones entered the game as the Big Ten leader in save percentage, and he backed that up with a stellar performance. The highlight of his 38-save output was absolutely a glove save on Cole Caufield, who made a gorgeous toe-drag move to give himself time and space for a wrist shot. Jones robbed college hockey’s leading goal scorer with a momentum-changing save.
  • Thursday’s game was incredibly physical, which isn’t a surprise considering the context surrounding it. Both teams opened their Big Ten slates at Pegula Ice Arena, and Penn State knocked Wisconsin out of the Big Ten tournament with a best-of-three series win at Pegula Ice Arena last season. Although there’s always room for rough stuff in hockey, Roman Ahcan’s dirty hit on Denis Smirnov was absolutely inexcusable.
  • Up front, Aarne Talvitie’s line with Nikita Pavlychev and Sam Sternschein had a strong game for Guy Gadowsky’s team. Talvitie scored a goal and chipped in two assists, Sternschein scored his third of the season, and Pavlychev also registered two helpers. The unit was also excellent in shutting down Wisconsin’s potent offense led by Alex Turcotte and Cole Caufield.

What’s Next

Penn State and Wisconsin will close out this weekend’s series at 6 p.m. Friday back at Pegula Ice Arena. The game will also mark Penn State’s annual Teddy Bear Toss game.

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About the Author

Matthew Ogden

Matthew Ogden is a senior double majoring in Marketing and Journalism. He resides in South Jersey and is the cohost of Onward State's podcast, Podward State, and the blog's preeminent expert on Kanye West. Email him your favorite Spotify playlists to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MattOgden98.

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