After a comeback victory against the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday, the Penn State University Nittany Lions (10-12, 7-11 Big Ten) battled the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team (20-8-1, 17-6-1-1) in the Big Ten tournament semifinal game March 15, with lots of momentum following their victory the day before.
After finishing the regular season in first place in the conference, the Badgers earned themselves a first-round bye. This bye automatically placed them in the semifinal of the tournament, only needing to win one game before advancing to the championship, which is to be played against the winner of the Minnesota versus Michigan game.
In the first period, the Badgers and their impressive power play unit were given two chances to score, but failed each time. It wasn’t until there were less than two minutes into the period that Sam Stange found the back of the net, scoring a one-time goal from the Nittany Lions’ slot.
Entering the second half, the Nittany Lions knew their season was on the line and played with an intense urgency, shutting down the Badger attack and earning many opportunities to score, outshooting the Badgers 16-7 in the period and tying up the game.
The Badgers thought they had scored a goal earlier in the period, but it was disallowed to a goalie interference that was close enough to be taken to a review.
Both teams headed into the third period knowing nothing that happened before mattered, and all that was left was one period of hockey.
Penn State came out of the gates hot once again, scoring a goal less than two minutes into the period and leading the game 2-1. In the same play, Hobey Baker Award nominee Dylan Holloway was ejected from the game for a misconduct penalty in which he checked a Nittany Lion in the head, sending the player down onto the ice and ending his game.
Led by Robbie Beydoun behind net, the Badgers managed to kill off the long power play and get back to full strength, a huge five minutes for the Badgers, who were able to score minutes later and tie the game at two. After receiving the puck in the high slot, Ty Emberson ripped a wrist shot on net, beating the Nittany Lions’ goalie and tying up the game.
The next few minutes were total chaos. Minutes after Emberson’s goal, the Nittany Lions converted on a rebound from Beydoun, taking the lead midway through the period, 3-2.
Following this goal, the game became very chippy. Players from both teams pushed and shoved each other after almost every whistle, perhaps showing the Badgers’ frustration at losing to a team they knew they could beat in a must-win game.
With not much time in the game and the Big Ten title on the line, Cole Caufield stepped up for the Badgers, a scene that has occurred many times this season.
The likely Hobey Baker Award winner and leading goal scorer in the NCAA tied the game up once again with only six minutes left. The goal was Caufield’s 10th power-play goal on the season, a true testament to both his absurd performance this season as well as the Badgers’ power-play unit, which is ranked as one of the best in the country.
After both teams fought hard the rest of the period, the game headed to overtime.
Buzzing from the electric Caufield game-saving goal, the Badgers came out hot, outshooting the Nittany Lions 10-3 in the extra period.
It was “Goal Caufield” time and everybody knew it. After receiving a cross-ice pass going tape-to-tape, Caufield met with the Nittany Lions goalie one-on-one. As a Nittany Lion defenseman desperately skated back, Caufield ripped a wrist shot past the keeper, sending the Badgers to the Big Ten championship game, where they will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Big Ten championship will be played at 8:00 p.m. central time Tuesday night on the Big Ten Network.