The Penn State Nittany Lions entered Monday afternoon’s Big Ten Hockey Tournament semifinal matchup with the top-seeded Wisconsin Badgers knowing that they needed to win if they wanted their season to continue. Penn State had mounted a big comeback in the quarterfinals to beat Notre Dame and came out on Monday with a little pep in their skates.
Wisconsin had two power play chances in the first period but couldn’t get much going and during even strength play the Nittany Lions were driving play into the Badgers’ zone. With just over a minute left in the first period the Badgers forecheck, led by Tarek Baker, won the puck and Dominick Mersch found Sam Stange all alone in front of the goal and he rifled one past PSU goalie Oskar Autio.
️: Sam Stange's first post season goal— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) March 15, 2021
: Mersch, Baker pic.twitter.com/IZzDAabEq2
Penn State came out in the second period with the urgency of a team playing for their season. They dominated the period 16-7 in shots and Alex Limoges scored a goal about halfway though to tie things up. This came after the Badgers had a Jack Gorniak goal disallowed due to goalie interference, mind you.
Then the Lions scored 1:44 into the third period to take a 2-1 lead and at the same time Badgers forward Dylan Holloway was called for a 5-minute major for contact to the head and given a game misconduct.
Things could have gone to hell for UW, but the penalty kill stood tall, especially when it came to blocking shots, and Robbie Beydoun kept PSU off the scoreboard for the entire five minutes. A few minutes later, Mersch and Baker teamed up again to win a face off in Penn State’s zone, kick the puck back out to Ty Emberson and the captain tied the game up with a twisted wrister from the point.
️: Captain Ty Emberson ties it up!— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) March 15, 2021
: Mersch, Baker pic.twitter.com/KDznNqShbL
Two minutes after that Limoges blasted a shot that Beydoun saved, but gave up a juicy rebound that Tim Doherty put home for his second goal of the game. The Badgers were down 3-2 when there was a dustup in front of Beydoun after the whistle and Sam Sternschein and Mersch got offsetting minors, but Sternschein picked up an additional two minutes so the Badgers got a power play.
In the time it took me to write up a tweet about Wisconsin “needing one here” Cole Caufield sniped a game tying goal, his tenth of the season on the man advantage, from a nice cross-ice pass from Linus Weissbach.
️: That's power-play goals for Cole Caufield— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) March 15, 2021
: Weissbach pic.twitter.com/Wj4R9xdL21
With only six minutes left in regulation, both teams had a few more scoring chances but the game headed to overtime.
The Badgers, seemingly goosed by the late Caufield goal in the third period, came out buzzing in OT. UW outshot PSU 10-3 in the extra period and the tenth shot was a second goal from Caufield, slipped through Autio’s five hole off of a brilliant stretch pass from Emberson.
️: Cole Caufield with the heart breaker— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) March 15, 2021
Next stop: BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP pic.twitter.com/NBKN7U2LSz
Beydoun ended up saving 43 of 46 shots (.935 save percentage) and the Badgers blocked 24 shots while dominating the faceoff circle, winning 42 of 65 draws. Caufield scored goals No. 27 and 28, to extend his national lead, while Weissbach added assist No. 28 on the year.
Caufield— Penn State Men’s Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) March 15, 2021
The Badgers now await the winner of Michigan/Minnesota to see who they’ll play in the Big Ten Tournament Final which will air on Big Ten Network Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. CST.