The Penn State Nittany Lions continued their impressive season over the weekend by sweeping the Wisconsin Badgers with 4-3 and 4-1 wins on Friday and Saturday.
In just their fourth season of Division I hockey, Penn State (15-4-3, 5-1-0-0) is currently ranked No. 15 in the nation and has managed to become one of the Big Ten’s top teams, now tied for first place in the division.
Wisconsin (4-10-6, 1-5-2-1)) freshman goalie Matt Jurusik faced a career-high 58 shots in Friday night’s game in a 4-3-overtime loss. The Badgers showed tremendous fight in their third-period effort taking away two Nittany Lions leads to ultimately force overtime. But just 44 seconds into the five-minute extra-time period, junior David Goodwin walked in and scored the game-winner for PSU.
New York Islanders draft pick Eamon McAdams got the start in Saturday night’s game, giving senior Matthew Skoff a night off after getting the win on Friday. McAdams rounds out the two-headed goalie threat for PSU as the junior leads the Big Ten in save percentage.
Penn State led Wisconsin 2-0 heading into the second period on goals from senior Curtis Loik and freshman Andrew Sturtz. However, the Badgers began the second period with a noticeably improved effort. Thirty-three of Wisconsin’s 51 goals this season have come in the second period. Although they did not score in Friday night’s second period, freshman Luke Kunin found the twine on the team’s first shorthanded goal of the season for his team-leading ninth of the season a little over five minutes into the second frame.
At 14:57, PSU went back to the power play for its second opportunity. Midway through the man advantage, PSU surrendered its second shorthanded opportunity of the game and this time the Badgers capitalized. Kunin danced around the PSU defender with a skating move from the left circle to the slot and shot against the grain to beat McAdams as the puck caromed in off the left post.
Jurusik and the Badgers seemed to settle into the game as the two teams traded chances for the rest of the period. While outshooting PSU 28-25, the Badgers trailed the Nittany Lions at the end of two 2-1.
The Badgers were positioned to mount another third-period comeback for the second night in a row until two costly penalties allowed the Nittany Lions to pull away.
With 14:13 left in the third period, sophomore Jake Linhart was sent to the box on a hooking infraction to give PSU its third power play of the night. Kunin, with seven points in the last three games, created another shorthanded opportunity with his speed but McAdams was equal to the task.
Following McAdams' save, Wagner was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for the snow shower he gave to the goaltender. The Nittany Lions converted on the two-man advantage on the 91st shot Jurusik faced this weekend. Senior Eric Scheid banged home a rebound, as the Badgers were out-numbered in front of their net. The goal scorer, Scheid, is the son of the late Badger hockey alum, Jim Scheid.
The goal seemed to suck the life out of the Wisconsin comeback effort. With 2:33 left in the game, Scheid got his second of the night and seventh of the season, extending the lead to 4-1 PSU.
Early in the first period, the No. 8 Penn State power play surrender a glorious shorthanded opportunity to the No. 5 penalty kill of Wisconsin. Freshman Seamus Malone skated in on a breakaway and tried to slide the puck between McAdams’ legs on a deke, but he made a great save.
On the ensuing faceoff, Penn State rushed down the ice and Loik was able to put away a rebound from a shot by Scheid -- opening the scoring at 12:22 and snapping a streak of 13 scoreless power play chances for PSU.
PSU continued to build on its strong start and at 7:54. Sturtz picked up a blocked shot inside the left circle and rifled a shot past Jurusik’s blocker for his second of the weekend and a team-leading 11th of the season, doubling the lead at 2-0.
The Wisconsin top line, however, did begin to create some offense with under five minutes remaining in the first period. Freshman defenseman Jake Bunz's shot found the post and junior Grant Besse followed up with a promising chance in the same sequence. Then, sophomore Cameron Hughes, while showing some patience, weaved toward McAdams and drew an interference penalty giving Wisconsin its first power play.
All in all, Wisconsin struggled to create offense 5-on-5 on Friday and Saturday nights, and that is a testament to the all-around team effort from PSU. Even on the power play, the Badgers' offense could not produce much of a spark, going 1-for-9 on the weekend as Big Ten opponents are just 2-for-18 against PSU’s penalty kill.
Wisconsin will looked to snap a six-game losing streak to PSU when the Nittany Lions visit Madison in March.