As Penn State (17-6-2) went through its five-game winless streak, Guy Gadowsky routinely noted that the team often sought the “home-run play” and has even forfeited defensive play to create offensive chances. The play in Madison during the first game of a critical conference road series was not lopsided to the offensive side. The Lions played a complete game on the way to breaking their mid-season slump. With the win, Penn State moves back up to the No. 7 spot in the PairWise Rankings.
Although Gadowsky recognized the problem during the lull and worked in practice to improve it, in-game scenarios continued to expose the flaws in the Nittany Lions’ game. Earlier in the week in his weekly press conference, Gadowsky commented that the Lions needed strong leadership now more than ever.
Fittingly, it was the player who set a program record for games played the moment he stepped on the ice, David Goodwin, who played hero for the Lions. He is also the program’s leading all-time scorer and current nominee for the national Hockey Humanitarian Award.
While he entered the night nearing a point-per-game pace for his career, Goodwin was stuck at four goals through 24 games, a pace that would set a career-low in goals, his career low of seven came in his freshman season, after posting 26 over the past two seasons.
Fortunately for the Lions, Goodwin seemed to be saving his goals for when his team needed them most. The senior captain notched a pair of timely goals as the Lions defeated Wisconsin 6-3 Friday night in Madison.
Goodwin opened the scoring for the Lions on the power play. Stationed in his usual position at the top of the right faceoff circle, Goodwin fired a wrist shot that rose over Jack Berry and found the top corner of the net.
A few minutes later, Brandon Biro doubled the Lions’ lead. After dogged work by Nikita Pavlychev below the goal line, he sent a pass to a wide open Biro, who buried a one timer past Berry.
The Lions held onto that lead through the remainder of the first and into the second. Just a few minutes into the middle frame, the Lions were met with some adversity.
A nifty passing play by the Badgers set up Seamus Malone alone in the slot. The sophomore forward out-waited Peyton Jones before firing a shot over his blocker. A half-minute later, Erik Autio gave the Badgers a chance to build on their momentum by taking a hooking penalty.
Early in the power play, leading scorer Luke Kunin took a back-door pass from Cameron Hughes, burying the puck past a helpless Jones.
While the past five games have revealed a panic in the Lions’ game when faced with this kind of adversity, this time they made sure to stay focused and regroup.
Just 50 seconds after Kunin’s goal, one Penn State player finally emerged from his longest scoring slump of the season, which just happened to coincide with the Lions’ five-game winless streak.
After taking a pass from Goodwin, Denis Smirnov broke in on a short breakaway. Berry stopped the initial shot, but could not close his legs quick enough to stop the rebound, as Smirnov tucked the puck through the five hole for his first point since Jan. 14 against Michigan State.
Later in the period, the Lions used a set play on a faceoff to double their lead once again. As Nate Sucese won the faceoff, Goodwin jumped on the loose puck and quickly fired a shot on goal. The wrister beat a startled Berry over the glove, giving Goodwin his second of the game.
Knowing the dangers of a two-goal lead from earlier in the game, the Lions capitalized on a shorthanded chance early in the third period. Simply killing time by maintaining control of the puck, Sucese turned a strong penalty killing effort into a marvelous set up for Trevor Hamilton, who beat Berry to give the Lions a three-goal lead.
The Badgers benefited from a power play with under five minutes to play, as Jake Linhart blasted a point shot past Jones to cut the lead back to two.
With the Badgers forced to pull their goalie for the extra attacker, Zach Saar fired the puck from his own end of the ice, hitting the empty net dead center for the dagger.
The teams will play game two of the series on Saturday at 8 p.m. Here are some of the highlights of the game.