One of the knocks on the Wisconsin men's hockey team this season has been its lack of success on the road. The biggest reason for the disappointing road record has been poor starts in the first period.
Obviously a focus for head coach Mike Eaves with just two weeks left in the regular season, the Badgers came out with a bang Friday night against Penn State, netting a power play goal less than five minutes into the game.
Michael Mersch was the man putting UW on the board early, netting his 20th of the season in front of a sold out crowd of 6,015 in the Badgers' first ever trip to Pegula Ice Arena.
Wisconsin would go up 2-0 later in the period on Tyler Barnes' 11th of season on an absolute snipe 14:47 into the first. After picking up a loose puck in the high slot, Barnes wristed a shot bar-down past Nittany Lions' goaltender PJ Musico.
In all, the Badgers dominated the period, out-shooting PSU 16-8 in the opening frame.
"I thought the first period we played tonight was as tight, as solid as we've played in a long time," Eaves said.
Wisconsin wasn't as sharp in the second, but received multiple breakaway saves from goaltender Joel Rumpel that kept the Badgers' lead alive.
Nic Kerdiles was able to extend UW's lead 11:11 into the period when he wristed a shot past Musico during a delayed penalty for the 3-0 lead.
Penn State would go on to score two goals in the third period, including a goal from Taylor Holstrom with less than a minute to go to cut the lead to 3-2, but an empty net goal from Mark Zengerle sealed the 4-2 win for the Badgers.
Rumpel finished the game with 24 saves on 26 shots and Zengerle and Kerdiles both registered four-point games in the win.
The Badgers will wrap up the series with Penn State Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. CT.