It was epic first night of Big Ten hockey in Madison as the Wisconsin men’s hockey team stormed the ice Friday night, trouncing Penn State 7-1, which included one of the flashiest goals to grace the Kohl Center ice.
Almost midway through the second period at the 8:46 mark, Joseph LaBate backhanded a shot on net from the left circle with PSU’s sophomore goaltender Michael Skoff making the initial save but kicking a rebound to Tyler Barnes on the doorstep. Instead of a quick one-timer Barnes netted a backhanded shot with his back to the net, sliding the puck between his legs past, giving UW its fourth goal of the night.
“It was one of those goals where he showed his athleticism. He knew where the net was, knew where the goalie was and he didn’t see it go in,” head coach Mike Eaves said.
UW (5-5-1, 1-2-0-0 Big Ten) started the game off strong with a pair of goals in the opening four minutes of play. A textbook two-on-one breakaway from the neutral zone led freshman forward Grant Besse to his fourth goal of the season off a pass from sophomore forwards Nic Kerdiles. Exactly one minute later senior defenseman Frankie Simonelli tallied Wisconsin’s second goal with a shot from the top of the left key to the top left corner of the net.
PSU (3-8-1, 0-1-0-0 Big Ten) would not let the game get out of their hands so early and junior forward Tommy Olczyk made it a one-goal game 11:47 into the first period as the puck escaped from behind UW’s net to a wide open Olczyk in the slot.
Badgers’ senior forward Michael Mersch made it a 3-1 game to begin the second period and PSU could not make a comeback against a solid performance by junior goaltender Joel Rumpel, who recorded 27 saves on the night to Skoff and goaltender PJ Musico’s combined 33 saves — as Musico entered the game following UW’s fifth goal from Kerdiles with 7 minutes 23 seconds remaining in the game.
LaBate and junior Brandon Navin added two more to the scoreboard for the final seven-goal victory.
For Eaves the inaugural home game of the new B1G conference was one of improvement throughout the game, feeling that despite the two early goals the team struggling in the opening period.
“Our anxiety level was up. Our players wanted to play so well and didn’t. Just too many turnovers,” Eaves said regarding the start of play. “As the game went on we started to settle our play.”
The Badgers and Nittany Lions will be back on the ice Saturday for game two of the series for a later game, as the puck is set to drop at 8 p.m.