Penn State (18-6-2) got a very important conference series sweep on the road against a team that was 7-1 coming into the weekend. The Badgers played well but it wasn’t enough to win against a very determined Lion hockey team. With the win, Penn State holds the No. 7 spot in the PairWise Rankings.
Nate Sucese got the scoring started, gaining an early Penn State lead in the first period. The advantage held until the waning moments of the opening period when Matt Ustaski tied the game at one apiece.
The second period was controlled mostly by the Lions, but another late goal, this time a power play goal by Luke Kunin, brought the Badgers back to within one goal heading into the final period. Sucese added a second goal for Penn State and Denis Smirnov scored his first in the frame. The game was tight, 3-2, through two periods.
Smirnov scored early in the third period to give the Lions a 4-2 lead. It was his second goal, to go with two assists on both of Sucese’ goals, good for four points. Trevor Hamilton added a goal to give the Lions a 5-2 advantage in the closing minutes of the game.
The game started with a frantic pace and the Badgers controlling the action. For the first few minutes, Penn State goalie Peyton Jones was under assault, facing one shot after another. Luke Kunin hit the side of a wide-open net on a rebound, and the immediate danger was averted for the Lions. The next few minutes of the game was tilted back in favor of Penn State. Neither team was able to capitalize and the teams skated without a score for the first nine minutes.
At that point, Vince Pedrie was called for interference, giving the Badgers one of the shortest power plays possible. Two seconds later, off the draw to start the power play, Trent Frederic of Wisconsin was called for a penalty, and the teams skated 4 on 4. The penalties expired without a score.
David Goodwin took the point on a 2 on 1 break and fed Nate Sucese for the first goal of the game with 13:33 expired from the first period clock. The goal quieted the crowd inside the Kohl Center momentarily. The Badgers played well and had more chances to score to that point of the game so the initial shock of the deficit was hard to take.
With just under five minutes to go, Wisconsin went on the power play when Blake Gober was called for interference. The Lions were able to kill the penalty but just moments later David Thompson was called for cross checking with 2:28 on the first period clock.
Penn State killed the penalty but didn’t have time to regroup in the seconds that followed as Wisconsin scored the next time up the ice. It was an even-strength goal in the scorecard but the penalty played a role. Matt Ustaski got the tally to pull even heading into the first intermission. Just 23 seconds remained on the clock, and the Lions almost made it to the break with a lead it may not have deserved. The tying goal was vindication for the Badgers who played slightly better and had three unsuccessful power plays.
The second period started out with a very even stretch of play. Nate Sucese broke that streak with his second goal of the night with 7:20 off the clock to give Penn State a 2-1 lead. Shortly after the Lions went on a power play. The Badgers were able to kill the penalty but the effect of the goal and extra-man flipped the advantage in momentum to Penn State.
Denis Smirnov, who assisted on the two Sucese goals earlier in the game, sniped home a shot from behind a screen for this thirteenth goal of the season to give the Lions a two-goal lead at 3-1. Following the goal, with seven minutes left in the period, the Badgers were once again called for a penalty. The Lions were unable to score with the man advantage.
Zach Saar took a questionable penalty as Penn State was dominating action and leading 3-1 with fewer than four minutes left in the period. As was the case last week when Saar took a ten-minute misconduct, his stick was too high. It cost the Lions dearly, as Luke Kunin scored a power play goal moments later. The game went from a two-goal lead and momentum in Penn State’s favor to a 3-2 game and a lively Kohl Center crowd at the second intermission.
Early in the third period, Denis Smirnov made a great individual play, stealing the puck at the blue line and then taking it the length of the ice, finishing a breakaway goal through the legs of Wisconsin goalie Matt Jurusik. It gave the Lions a huge 4-2 lead and was the freshman forward’s fourth point of the night.
Trevor Hamilton put the game on ice with a goal with 5:20 seconds left to play in the game, giving the Lions the 5-2 win.
Stars of the Game
First Star- Denis Smirnov, Penn State. 2 goals, 2 assists.
Second Star- Nate Sucese, Penn State. 2 goals, 1 assist.
Third Star- Peyton Jones, Penn State. Win, 27 saves, .931 save percentage.