Once again, the Wisconsin men's hockey team showed signs of improvement Friday night. Once again, it wasn't enough to secure a victory.
In front of a raucous crowd of 6,033 at Pegula Ice Arena, Penn State was able to erase a 2-1 Wisconsin lead and hold on for an eventual 5-2 victory.
Tommy Olczyk gave Penn State (14-7-4, 6-2-1-0 Big Ten) its first lead of the night just 5:54 into the opening period. After a long rebound off the pad of UW goaltender Joel Rumpel out into the slot, Olczyk would bury his fifth goal of the season for the early advantage.
While the Nittany Lions controlled the first 10 minutes of the game, it was Wisconsin (2-17-4, 0-7-2-2 Big Ten) who would take the possession advantage the second half of the period.
Leading the charge for the Badgers was freshman Cameron Hughes, who was able to bury two goals in the opening frame to give Wisconsin a 2-1 lead. The goals from Hughes were just his second and third on the season after he notched his first of the season last Saturday against Minnesota.
PSU would even the score just 1:26 into the second period on Eric Scheid's 13th goal of the season. Once again it was a defensive breakdown in front of the Wisconsin net that allowed the Scheid, who is the cousin of former Badger Zach Bearson, to net the equalizer.
The Nittany Lions would take a 3-2 lead late in the period on David Goodwin's 12th goal of the year. After Jack Dougherty pushed a Penn State player into Rumpel, Goodwin dove for a loose puck in front of the UW net and was able to poke the puck into the back of the Wisconsin goal.
PSU extended its lead midway through the third period on Casey Bailey's team-leading 19th goal of the year. After a turnover by the Badgers, Dylan Richard found Bailey streaking into the zone and the Hobey Baker candidate did the rest, firing a laser beam past Rumpel for the 4-2 lead.
Wisconsin would crank up the intensity in the third period in an attempt to bring the game back to level, firing 17 shots on goal in the process. Unfortunately for the Badgers, PSU goaltender PJ Musico would stand tall, turning aside everything that came his way.
Musico finished the night with 35 stops on 37 shots, while Rumpel turned aside 32 shots from Penn State.
An empty net goal from Taylor Holstrom would ice the victory for the Nittany Lions.
The loss has to be frustrating for the Badgers, as they showed flashes of finally putting it together. But as the story has been all season long, they couldn't put together a complete 60 minutes. When you face a good team on the road like Penn State, that's not going to cut it.
The five goals from Penn State marked the 15th time this season the Badgers have given up at least four goals in a game. A far cry from the staunch defensive reputation Wisconsin had acquired during the Mike Eaves era in Madison.
Hughes was Wisconsin's best player in the game but unfortunately suffered an injury in the third period. It appeared as if the freshman center lost an edge and fell hard into the end boards. Hughes did not return to the contest. His status for the series finale was not available at the time this article was written.
The Badgers will be back in the saddle on Saturday in a matinee affair. Puck drop is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. CT, and the game will be televised on the American Sports Network.
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