Penn State Men’s Hockey: Nittany Lions Sweep Season with Wisconsin with 4-1 Victory


Penn State completed their first Big Ten season sweep on Saturday afternoon, defeating the Wisconsin Badgers 4-1 off of two goals from a pair of defensemen.

PJ Musico started his third straight game between the pipes while freshman defenseman Erik Autio potted his first collegiate goal to continue Penn State’s (15-7-4, 7-2-1 Big Ten) eight game unbeaten streak.

“It’s very difficult [to secure a season sweep] and I think we got them at a good time,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “They’re a lot more talented than their record shows right now, but they’re very very young and I think everybody knows that. Trust me, they’re going to be Wisconsin soon.”

With the Nittany Lions leading the game 2-1 in the middle stages of the third period, Wisconsin (2-18-4, 0-8-2-2 Big Ten) looked to have tied the game after spending most of the start of the frame in Penn State’s zone. A missed Nittany Lion clear went to a Badger in the slot and the shot deflected off Aidan Cavallini down the middle, but the puck was tipped with a high stick and Penn State maintained their lead.

“We felt very strongly that [the deflection] would be waved off,” Gadowsky said, “but still, obviously if it’s not, it’s a big turnaround. The fact that it did take way some of the momentum because it was a long time off probably helped us.”

The Nittany Lions benefited off the momentum turnaround as James Robinson pocketed his third of the year off some hard work by the freshman to find an open lane. The forward found clear ice in front of Wisconsin netminder Joel Rumpel and let off a weak shot that leaked through the netminder’s five hole for the 3-1 tally with 10:43 to play in the game.

“The whole game I was trying to get hard on the forecheck, touch pucks first and stuff,” Robinson said. “On that specific play, [Curtis] Loik did a great job in the corner… and the puck got loose there and I was able to get a shot on net and it ended up going in.

“I’ve always believed that if you work hard you’re going to get rewarded so hopefully that’s what was going on there.”

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In a first period that had seven minor penalties, the Nittany Lions drew first blood on their first power play of the afternoon. With the power-play unit set up in the offensive zone, a Casey Bailey cross ice feed to Luke Juha hit the defenseman right in his wheelhouse, and the junior one-timed it past Rumpel from the right point.

The Nittany Lions had to kill off an early 5-on-3 penalty for 1:15, after David Glen took the initial tripping call in the offensive zone then 45 seconds later Taylor Holstrom joined the junior in the box after tripping a Wisconsin player at the Penn State blue line. Thankfully, Musico and the Penn State penalty killers were up to the task and killed the minors.

A Wisconsin turnover at their own blue line helped Penn State double their lead to 2-0 with just three minutes gone in the second period. Eric Scheid stripped a Badger exiting the zone and held off the Wisconsin back check long enough to pass the puck through the slot to Dylan Richard, who buried the shot past Rumpel glove side into the open net.

While the Nittany Lions dominated the opening 10 minutes of the middle frame, Wisconsin got one back on Adam Rockwood’s second strike of the season. On the second 4-on-4 of the game, with Ricky DeRosa and Morgan Zulinick both in the box for roughing after the whistle, Rockwood fired a shot from the top of the slot that beat Musico high glove side for the 2-1 score with 9:28 to play in the frame.

After Robinson’s third of the season, Autio put the game away for Penn State with his first Nittany Lion goal on the power play with 1:14 to play in the third. The defenseman’s snipe through traffic from the top of the left circle went top shelf on Rumpel to carry the Nittany Lions to the 4-1 victory.

In between the pipes for the third straight game, Musico saved 27 of 28 Badger shots that came his way while Penn State lit the lamp on four of their 43 total shots against Rumpel.

Each team accrued five power plays and a total of 28 penalty minutes through the 60 minute match. Only Penn State converted on their advantages, going 2-for-5.

Penn State will take their eight game unbeaten streak to East Lansing next Friday and Saturday to play Michigan State (10-11-2, 4-3-2 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions tied and lost to the Spartans in their last meeting back in January.