It was a scene that has become so familiar for the Nittany Lions on the Pegula Ice Arena ice. In front of a sold out crowd of 6,033, The Lions scored early, before quickly falling behind. But this team, as they have all season long, doesn’t stop. They kept fighting, and by the time the clock hit 10:47 in the third period, the Lions had regained the lead.
At that precise moment, Dylan Richard found a wide open Casey Bailey in the center of the ice. As anyone who has followed the Nittany Lions’ run through their schedule thus far this season could tell you, that’s not a sight that any opposition wants to see.
Bailey saw Richard’s pass coming right at him, launched his arsenal, and fired an absolute missile of a one-timer directly at Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel. The goaltender, one of the best in the NCAA, had no chance, and Penn State’s lead was finally stable. The Lions would eventually tally one more empty net goal to make it a 5-2 final score in their game one deposition of the Badgers.
Coach Guy Gadowsky was pretty much speechless when describing the rocket that came off of Bailey’s stick.
"It was just a big time goal. Man…" he said after the game.
The junior forward hesitated a bit after scoring the goal — it bounced in and out of the net so quickly, that he wasn’t sure if it had gone in.
It was Bailey’s 19th goal of the season — most in the Big Ten conference, and tied for second most in Division I hockey.
It was another banner night for the line that has since been dubbed the "Chipotline," featuring Bailey, David Goodwin, and Taylor Holstrom. All three scored a goal on the evening, and had their impacts felt with and without the puck.
Dubbed a Whiteout game, Gadowsky stood behind the bench and embraced it fully. Rocking a white tie (that he picked out himself) on top of his white dress shirt, the coach looked fresh.
The Roar Zone, as expected decked itself out in white, but had a few tricks up its sleeve as well. Just as the game was beginning, the student section revealed a giant sign that read "Tonight We Feast on Badger," taking up ten rows of student section space.
That set the tone for the evening, which was filled with energy from start to finish.
"They were a huge factor," Gadowsky said of the packed student section. "We felt a lot of energy from them. They carried us on"
Penn State opened the scoring up at 5:54 of the first period, when a deep shot from defenseman Connor Varley took a considerable rebound off of Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel. With Rumpel out of position after the rebound, forward Tommy Olczyk cleaned up the mess, putting one in the back of the net, pumping his fist as he put his beloved Lions up for the first time.
At 10:19 in the first, that lead was vanquished. Cameron Hughes scored his first goal of the night for the Badgers, getting the first of the night past goalie P.J. Musico. Musico was making his second consecutive start between the pipes, after starting a week ago in the Lions’ 4-2 victory over Vermont at the Wells Fargo center in Philadelphia.
Wisconsin turned the leveled score into one in its favor at 16:59 in the first, when Hughes again made Musico pay. With a lot of bodies in front of the net, Musico misplayed the possession, eventually leaving Hughes with a wide open right side of the net. The forward was able to flick it home backhanded for an easy finish, putting his team up 2-1 in the hostile Pegula environment.
After these early blunders, however, Musico didn’t look back. The senior finished up with 35 saves on the afternoon, salvaging a night that early on didn’t look great.
At one point, when behind the net, Musico fell flat on his chest with the puck still in the Badgers’ offensive zone. The goalie explained that it was his own mistake, and he lost track of where he was.
"I was just trying to keep it exciting," he said in a deadpan manner.
No damage was done, as the goalie quickly recovered and the Lions managed to clear the puck.
"I thought I made it look graceful at least," Musico added.
Gadowsky was proud of the play of his senior goaltender.
"He stood tall. He had a very consistent game," Gadowsky said.
The coach also cited that Musico had a few saves that could have easily been goals, keeping his team in the drivers seat during the back end of the game.
"He looked very, very poised," the fourth-year coach said about his goaltender.
That lead didn’t last long into the second period, when Eric Scheid did what he’s done so many times over his two years in blue and white — scored a goal. Assisted by Varley and forward Scott Conway, Scheid’s 13th of the season came on a bit of a messy play in front of the net. With the puck up for grabs, Scheid quickly located it, controlled it, and wristed it up into the right side of the net.
As has happened so many times this season, Penn State saw a deficit, and turned it into a lead. This was completed at 14:59 of the second, when yet another messy play in front of the net saw Penn State’s most productive line — Bailey, Goodwin, and Holstrom — team up for yet another goal. A shot for Bailey went off of Holstrom’s skate in front of the net. As the puck drifted around the goalie’s crease, Goodwin saw it and sprung into action. He skated swiftly toward the puck, and dove, full extension, poking the puck to the back of the net. Rumpel had no chance, and Penn State went up, 3-2.
Goodwin has become the master of cleaning up around the net, and Gadowsky acknowledged as such after the game.
"Smart guys go to the net," the coach said. "and that's what he's doing"
Shortly after this, Bailey scored his laser of a one-timer, putting the Lions up 4-2.
Finally, with only nine seconds left on the game, Holstrom put the cherry on top, tapping in an empty-netter, and completing the bingo card for his line.
In a rare occurrence, the Lions didn’t win the shot battle, instead tying the Badgers with 37 apiece.
Notes: Bailey’s goal was actually scored playing with Curtis Loik and David Glen, rather than his usual linemates. This was due to Kenny Brooks aggravating his "mid" injury that he had been suffering from for the past few weeks.