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Penn State Hockey: A Signature Win to Close the Season

Both teams saw their regular seasons come to a close over the past few days. For the ladies, it was a trip to Robert Morris to try and pick up a win before heading into the CHA Tournament. For the men, it was a trip to Wisconsin to define their season and send a message for next year.

It's been quite the season for the men's hockey team. There were some bumps along the way, with losses to a couple of D3 teams and even an ACHA squad. On the flip side of that, there have been wins on this schedule that for many years, I have only dreamed about happening. There was the road win at RIT (following one of those D3 losses) in front of a packed homecoming crowd, and the home win against an Air Force program that has reached the NCAA Tournament in 5 of the past 6 seasons. Then there were the neutral ice wins - one at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh over Ohio State, and then defeating Vermont at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. But Ohio State wasn't the only win over a soon-to-be Big Ten Hockey Conference foe. Penn State added a road win against Michigan State in January, and then they closed the season against a legendary and high-quality program in the Wisconsin Badgers. Oh, and Wisconsin had something to play for - after struggling to start the season, the Badgers have made a serious run for the NCAA tournament over the past couple of months. The Badgers were at home and had something serious to play for, while Penn State was just wrapping up their first season returning to the varsity level. Among the many season defining wins, a win over Wisconsin would be by far the biggest feather in the cap.

The ladies were closing out their regular season as well. On the slate was a trip to Robert Morris for one final CHA conference weekend. With the Colonials in the midst of their own late-season struggles, Penn State was surely looking to finish the season on a positive note, and perhaps build some momentum for the CHA Tournament.

Men's NCAA D1:

February 24, 2013 1 2 3 Final
PENN STATE 0 0 0 0
#16 Wisconsin 0 2 3 5
PSU Goals:
Penn State SOG: 22
Wisconsin SOG: 51

Summary: Penn State played a very solid first 20 minutes - holding their own with the Badgers, trading scoring chance for scoring chance. And then the second period happened, and it was all Wisconsin from there. The Badgers would outshoot Penn State over the final two periods by a combined total of 45-16. While the 5-0 final score already sounds like a blowout, it could have easily been 5-0 by the end of the 2nd period if not for some fantastic goaltending from PJ Musico. Wisconsin's constant pressure combined with Penn State's penalties really gave the Nittany Lions no chance in the first game of the series. UW held a 2-0 lead at the end of the second period, and finally broke the game open with 3 goals over the final 10 minutes of the game. Badgers roll, 5-0.

February 25, 2013 1 2 3 OT Final
PENN STATE 0 0 2 1 3
#16 Wisconsin 0 1 1 0 2
PSU Goals: Holstrom (8, 9); Bailey (14)
Penn State SOG: 36
Wisconsin SOG: 44

Summary: If I sound like I'm repeating myself, I assure you we're open that these were two separate games played. After fading in the first game, Penn State opened the Monday night game with a strong first period showing, keeping up with Wisconsin and playing to a scoreless first period. But the Badgers started to take over the game in the second period. Late in the 2nd period, a 2-on-0 break would give Wisconsin the chance to finally beat Matt Skoff and take a 1-0 lead. Hoping to avoid another 3rd period blowout, Penn State picked up their level of play in the third. It was still 1-0 until Wisconsin's Joseph LaBate ripped a long wrist shot past Skoff, to extend the lead to 2-0. But Penn State would not go quietly, and Taylor Holstrom would make it a one-goal game again just 7 seconds later. If the Nittany Lions wanted to pull off the improbable, they were going to need support from an unlikely place. Penn State's powerplay - statistically, the worst powerplay in the NCAA - would do just that, with Casey Bailey tying the game at 2-2 with less than 8 minutes to go. The two teams traded scoring chances for the remainder of the period, but the game would require overtime to determine a possible winner. In the final minute of the overtime period, Penn State would force some offensive pressure, create a turnover in front, and Taylor Holstrom would put home the game winner, closing the first season with a highly impressive signature win.

Season Record: 13-14-0 (11-12-0 NCAA D1) (6-2-0 in exhibition play, not included in the season record)

Next Opponents: That'll do it for the 2012-13 season. Next opponent will be the Army Black Nights on October 11th at the brand new Pegula Ice Arena.

Women's NCAA D1:

February 22, 2013 1 2 3 Final
PENN STATE 1 0 0 1
Robert Morris 0 2 2 4
PSU Goals: Laurenzi (4)
Penn State SOG: 14
Robert Morris SOG: 63

February 23, 2013 1 2 3 Final
PENN STATE 1 0 1 2
Robert Morris 1 2 1 4
PSU Goals: Yoxheimer (14), Gross (6)
Penn State SOG: 12
Robert Morris SOG: 57

Summary: There were times during both of these games where you thought it might finally come, that this would finally be the game where the girls broke their winless streak. On Friday, Emily Laurenzi put Penn State on the board late in the first period, giving the ladies a 1-0 lead. Robert Morris would take the lead with two goals in the 2nd period, and then run away with it in the 3rd, winning the first game 4-1. In the Saturday match-up, Robert Morris took the lead first, but Shannon Yoxheimer's 14th goal of the season tied the game just 24 seconds later. Like the Friday game, everything fell apart in the 2nd period. The Colonials completely dominated the period, scoring two goals to take a 3-1 lead. Robert Morris added a goal midway through the 3rd period to make it 4-1, and Taylor Gross' power play goal later in the period was not enough to ignite a comeback in this one. RMU completed the weekend sweep with a 4-2 win.

As much as Penn State were in the games early, the statistics showed that RMU dominated both games. A 120-26 shot advantage between the two games tells the story pretty well. But credit to Penn State - both Paniccia and Whitlinger played outstanding to only allow 4 goals each game, and the offense was very efficient with the limited scoring chances they could muster. It's a struggle at times, but there is definitely a growing wave of talent and ability that will turn into wins next season.

Season Record: 7-24-2 Overall, 1-17-2 CHA

Next Opponent: Penn State is back on the road next weekend as part of the first round of the CHA Tournament. The first round is a best-of-three, with 6th-seed Penn State taking on 3rd-seed RIT. The winner will move onto the semifinal round on 3/8, with the CHA championship game scheduled for 3/9. Since the CHA does not have an autobid, the tournament is for bragging rights and a trophy. Still, the ladies have one last chance to close the season with a positive result.