After a strong start to the 2019-2020 campaign, the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team (4-4-0, 0-2-0 Big Ten) has now dropped three of their last four games following two brutal road losses at Penn State (6-1-0, 2-0-0).
The Nittany Lions’ performance vastly outweighed that of the Badgers, who downright weren’t ready for their conference opener. PSU’s host of seniors frustrated Wisconsin’s young stars all weekend, drawing them into penalty after penalty and capitalizing on the power plays.
Thursday night was a bloodbath. Penn State got off to a quick start when junior forward Sam Sterschein scored on a redirect just 47 seconds after the puck dropped. Not too long after, another upperclassman, junior Evan Barratt, put home a power play to double the Nittany Lions’ lead to 2–0.
The Badgers cut it back down to one to close out the first half on a beautiful power-play goal from freshman Cole Caufield, his nation-leading eighth goal of the season. But after that, it was all downhill for Wisconsin.
An own-stick deflection helped PSU forward Alex Stevens get another one past Daniel Lebedeff, who actually ended up with 38 saves on the night despite giving up six goals.
It just seemed to be shot after shot for Penn State, who were able to carve through Wisconsin’s young defensive line all night long. It visibly frustrated the Badgers, and they continuously found themselves down a man because of skirmishes and foolish penalties.
The Nittany Lions ultimately scored three more goals, stretching their lead all the way out to 6–1, where it would stand until the final horn. Four of those six goals came on the power play.
Friday night was undoubtedly a better showing, but a few bad breaks don’t show up any differently in the standings if you still lose.
Halfway through the first period, sophomore forward Jack Gorniak tucked one in near post for his first score of the season. Early in the second however, Penn State senior forwards Brandon Biro and Nikita Pavlychev ran a give-and-go to perfection to even things up.
Sometimes luck just doesn’t go your way, and a funky bounce off the glass left the net vulnerable for Nittany Lion forward Alex Limoges, who smashed it in to take the lead.
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With a minute left in the second, however, the Badgers pulled even on a wrister from junior defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk. It was his first of the season.
Penn State went back up 3–2 with 11:50 remaining on a crucial Sternschein near-side snipe, and ultimately sealed it with an empty netter to win 4–2.
Both games were backbreakers for a Badger team that has looked extremely promising out of the gate. Wisconsin fell back five spots to No. 12 in the national rankings, and will look to get things back on track next weekend at No. 20 Omaha.
It’ll be already the fourth ranked opponent for this young team, and may ultimately be one of the most important series of the year for their confidence.