[media-credit name=”Andy Fate” align=”alignleft” width=”540″][/media-credit]In its first home series of Big Ten hockey, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team stormed past Penn State, sweeping the Nittany Lions with 7-1 and 4-3 victories to earn University of Wisconsin its first set of wins in the new conference.
Following the domineering win Friday, the Badgers (6-5-1, 2-2-0 Big Ten) and Nittany Lions saw a much more evenly matched game Saturday as the teams traded goals throughout the game. In the end it was a goal from forward Nic Kerdiles with eight minutes and eight seconds left in the game that won it for Wisconsin. The sophomore forward netted a shot inside the slot, sending a puck top shelf that PSU sophomore goaltender Matthew Skoff could not stop.
“The Big Ten is open now. We fight for three points every night so getting six points on the weekend is huge,” Kerdiles said. “Whether it was ugly or not we got it done.”
A third period of play that had begun in a 2-2 deadlock, senior defenseman Joe Faust drilled a shot that was redirected in front of the goal into the back of the net only to see the one-goal lead erased 42 seconds later as PSU’s Zach Saar took advantage of a rebounded puck inside the slot by Rumpel. It would take the fourth and final goal from Kerdiles to put down the Nittany Lions for good.
Setting up Faust’s third UW goal was a hard hit by senior forward Sean Little, forcing a turnover deep in PSU’s ice. In one of his best performances as a Badger, Little also recorded his first goal of the season to tie the teams at 1-1 following a five-on-three power play goal by PSU’s Eric Scheid in the first quarter. Though known for his aggressive play more than his contributions to the scoreboard, the Badgers are 6-0 when Little scores over his four years at UW.
“He’s that spice in your stew when you need some flavor,” head coach Mike Eaves said. “He plays hard and he plays his game. He keeps it simple.”
Entering the second period tied one-all, the Badgers notched their first power-play goal of the series as senior forward Michael Mersch knocked in a blocked shot by Skoff from just outside the crease. Yet the Nittany Lions would not let the Badgers out of reach. Seven minutes and 10 seconds later, Ricky DeRosa scored from the back door on junior goaltender Joel Rumpel, who was caught off balance after making an initial block on the play.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game but we got it done and that’s what probably matters,” Kerdiles said.
UW wins B1G in game one
Friday night UW stormed the ice to trounce PSU 7-1 in an inaugural B1G home game that 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,” Eaves said.
UW 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 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 would not let the game get out of hand 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 come back 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 7:23 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 struggled 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.”