Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State Men's Hockey: Two Close Losses to No. 5 Wisconsin

The Penn State Nittany Lions (6-24-2, 2-15-1-0 B1G) played host to the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers (21-9-2, 12-5-1-0 B1G) Friday and Saturday night in their second-to-last weekend series of the season. The Nittany Lions lost 4-2 on Friday and 3-2 Saturday in overtime, despite rallying from behind in both matches. The Nittany Lions never lead the Badgers at any time over the weekend but were much improved from their 7-1 and 4-3 losses back in Madison in December when the two teams last met.

P.J. Musico and Matt Skoff took the starts in net over the weekend, with junior Musico taking Friday’s 4-2 loss and Skoff the 3-2 overtime heartbreaker on Saturday.

The Badgers struck first in Friday’s game 4:41 into the frame while the Nittany Lions were shorthanded on Casey Bailey’s slashing call. While on the minor,  Michael Mersch tallied his 20th goal of the season on a rebound in the slot off of teammate Mark Zengerle’s original shot. Ten minutes later, at 14:47 of the first, Tyler Barnes went upstairs on Musico to double the lead 2-0 on an even strength goal, his 11th of the year.

Wisconsin added its third goal of the night in the second period on a delayed tripping penalty to Penn State’s Ricky DeRosa and with an extra-attacker out on the ice, Badger Nic Kerdiles fired home a puck off a nice cross-ice pass from Zengerle, his third assist of the night. The goal came at 11:11 of the middle frame.

Penn State broke the shutout in the third period on Bailey’s eighth goal of the year at 12:04 of the final frame to get the Nittany Lions back in the game 3-1. With Wisconsin’s Joseph LaBate in the box for checking from behind, Penn State capitalized on the power play past Badger goaltender Joel Rumpel from the left circle just before his blocker could stop the shot.

Coach Gadowsky pulled Musico on four-on-four play to give Penn State a five-on-four advantage and with a minute to play in the third period, Taylor Holstrom redirected one past Rumpel to put the Nittany Lions within one goal with 60 seconds to play. With the extra-skater, Holstrom deflected Dylan Richard’s shot down low that beat the Wisconsin goaltender for the 3-2 score. Both Richard and teammate Patrick Koudys had two points on the night, both assists.

Wisconsin added an empty net goal with six seconds left to play in the game to put a stamp on their win, 4-2.

Both Penn State and Wisconsin tallied a power play goal each in Friday’s game, with the Nittany Lions going 1-4 and the Badgers 1-5.

Musico stopped 30 of 34 Wisconsin shots in the game while Penn State put up 26 shots of their own on goaltender Rumpel.

In Saturday’s game, Penn State kept pace with Wisconsin but trailed 2-1 after Badger Nic Kerdiles broke the tie on a shorthanded bid in the waning minutes of the second period. Wisconsin’s Keegan Meuer started off the scoring with 9:01 gone in the first period, beating Skoff with bodies in front from the right circle after a Nittany Lion turnover. Penn State knotted the scoring at 1-1 on Bailey’s second in two games on the power play again 1:06 later. Tyler Barnes was in the box for Wisconsin as Penn State set up on the extra-man advantage and David Glen threw a gorgeous no-look pass on the backhand for Bailey to one-time past Rumpel from the left-hand circle.

Wisconsin took the lead on a shorty from Kerdiles while teammate Eddie Wittchow was in the penalty box for roughing in the second period. After a nice pass from Zengerle behind the Nittany Lion defense, Kerdiles took the puck in and beat Skoff alone on his forehand with a few nice moves to go up 2-1 with 2:39 to go in the middle frame.

Kenny Brooks jump-started the Nittany Lion comeback with 2:44 to play in the game.  The even strength tally came after Brooks fired a puck from around the net that deflected off a Wisconsin defender standing in front of the net and in over the goal line past Rumpel to tie the game at 2-2. The goal is Brooks’ fourth of the season coming into the final weekend of the year.

However, it was just not meant to be in overtime for Penn State, as Zengerle, who had plagued the Nittany Lions all weekend, scored on a odd-man rush for Wisconsin with 21 seconds to play in the extra period after Kerdiles connected with the senior Zengerle to win the game 3-2 in overtime.

Penn State added one extra-man goal in five attempts in Saturday’s game and held the Badgers to no goals in four tries.

Skoff saved 26 of 29 Badger shots while Penn State outshot Wisconsin for the first time over the weekend, as they tallied 43 through three periods and the overtime on the Badger backstopper Rumpel.

Penn State will end their regular season at home against Ohio State next Friday and Saturday, with game times for March 14 at 7 p.m. and March 15 at 3 p.m.

Tags: Hockey Penn State

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