The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team (14-18-5) saw their season come to an end Sunday after dropping the tie-breaking game three of their first-round series against the Penn State Nittany Lions (21-14-2).
The series started well for Head Coach Tony Granato’s Badgers Friday night when they got out to a 3–1 lead going into the third period behind two goals from Sean Dhooghe and one from Tarek Baker.
Freshman goalie Daniel Lebedeff couldn’t keep the explosive Penn State offense at bay all night, however, and Nittany Lions battled back to tie the game at three with time ticking away late in the third period.
Dhooghe’s late third-period goal, which put the Badgers on top and secured them a victory, was his third of the game, making him the first Wisconsin skater to net a hat trick in postseason play since 2006 and the first to do it in any game since 2014.
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Dhooghe was in high spirits after his hat trick but acknowledged that he and his team needed to come out hot again if they wanted to put the series away Saturday.
“Getting the first win is great, but I think it’s already time to forget about it and move on,” Dhooghe said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a whole new game and they’re going to come out flying.”
Saturday’s game, unlike the first, was dominated by the Penn State offense.
Linus Weissbach opened the scoring for the game early in the first period. From that point, Penn State netted five unanswered goals, four coming in the second period, and won the game 6–2.
“We got that lead and we had a little bit of an opportunity, at least, to stay in the game, but they had better jump than us tonight,” Granato said. “We couldn’t keep up with them for most of the game. We got a little bit going in the third period, but the game was over by then.”
All heads turned to Sunday’s contest — a winner-takes-all game to advance to the Big Ten Semifinals.
Penn State took a 2–1 lead in the early going. Then, in a minute’s time, junior Max Zimmer and sophomore Josh Ess netted goals to put the Badgers up 3–2.
Penn State tied the game at three going into the third period, where neither team was able to find the net, sending the game into overtime.
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Wisconsin entered Sunday with a 17-12-4 record in overtime playoff games with their last overtime victory coming in 2014 when they defeated Ohio State to capture the Big Ten title.
The overtime period was competitive, as both teams attacked offensively. At the 10:50 mark of the extra period, Liam Folkes scored his second goal of the game after a quick pass to give Penn State the lead and the win, advancing his team to the Big Ten semifinals.
The loss was a hard pill to swallow for Granato and his team, especially after how well they had played over the last few weeks and against Penn State during the series.
“The only thing you ask of your team is that you play hard. You give yourself a chance by how hard you compete, and that’s what we did,” Granato said. “We had a game in there that might not have been great yesterday, but our guys played as hard as we could. We just came up a little short.”
The game ended an up-and-down season for the Badgers but instilled hope in them for next season with many returning contributors and a stellar incoming freshman class.