For a brief moment in the third period on Saturday, it appeared as if Wisconsin had tied the game. Trailing Penn State by a score of 2-1, fourth-line left wing Aidan Cavallini tipped a long-range shot out of the air, past PSU goaltender PJ Musico, for what appeared to be his first goal of the season.
The referees disagreed. After a lengthy video review, the officials waived the goal off, saying that Cavallini tipped the puck with a high stick above the crossbar.
"I have to trust (the referees)," a clearly disappointed Mike Eaves said after the game. "That's their job. I believe they are honest men. If it was conclusive, then you have to trust that they saw a good camera angle and made the proper call."
In a turn of events that should surprise no one at this point in the season, just minutes after the goal was waived off, James Robinson would score to give Penn State a 3-1 lead.
When asked if his club let down after Cavallini's goal was waived off, Eaves had a simple answer.
"No," Eaves said. "I think the goal they scored, I think Joel (Rumpel) would like to have that one back, we were doing a good job in our own zone."
Despite throwing up 12 shots in the final period, Wisconsin couldn't find a way to solve Musico. The senior netminder finished the game with 27 stops on 28 shots.
Penn State would put the nail in the coffin with 1:14 to play on a power play goal from Erik Autio after UW senior captain Brad Navin was called for a high-sticking penalty 200-feet away from Wisconsin's net while trailing by two goals in the waning minutes.
The loss drops the Badgers to an embarrassing 2-18-4 on the season, and they remain winless in Big Ten play at 0-8-2-2. Saturday's result also extends UW's winless streak to 10 games, the longest streak of futility in school history.
Wisconsin's special teams left much to be desired in the contest, as the Badgers were 0-5 on the power play, which included a five-on-three opportunity in the first period. UW also gave up two goals on the penalty kill in five chances.
One of the power play goals the Badgers gave up was the opening tally of the game, as PSU defenseman Luke Juha was able to send a long-range blast from the point past Rumpel for the 1-0 lead at the 13:12 mark of the first period.
The Nittany Lions were able to take a 2-0 lead just three minutes into the second period on a 2-on-1 that Dylan Richard was able to convert. After a Wisconsin turnover, PSU forward Eric Scheid transitioned quickly toward the UW net and was able to sneak a pass over to Richard who quickly snapped home a shot to extend Penn State's lead.
Wisconsin's lone goal came in the second period on a nice line rush. Grant Besse entered the zone down the left wing and found a trailing Adam Rockwood following up the play. The freshman winger slid into the high slot area and finished off the goal, firing a high wrist-shot over the glove of Musico.
Despite the loss, Eaves felt his club played much better in the defensive zone on Saturday.
"I think one of the areas we improved on tonight was us coming into our own zone and shutting them down," Eaves said. "We gave up fewer chances tonight."
Wisconsin played hard all weekend long and didn't look out of place in either game. Eaves said he still believes his team is making progress.
"Do I still think we're growing and going in the right direction? Absolutely," Eaves said.
"I think they know they are playing hard enough for each other that we just need to keep working, make our own breaks, and I think good things will happen."
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