Penn State won the Big Ten Tournament in double overtime on a Liam Folkes breakaway goal. The Lions, playing in just their fourth full season in Division 1 hockey, have arrived atop one of the most dominant conferences in college hockey ahead of schedule. Yet it took much longer than it should have. No team has won the Big Ten conference title having to play three games in the tournament, without the advantage of a first-round bye, until now. Penn State played four extra periods of hockey along the way, winning in double-overtime two nights in a row. That is the equivalent of playing more than four games in three days.
The teams started the game with a cautious approach, skating with purpose but not taking any chances. Liam Folkes got the Lions on the board with a goal just after a Wisconsin penalty expired. It wasn’t a power-play goal but as the Badgers scrambled to recover with mismatched lines, Folkes took advantage.
There weren’t any goals scored in the second period nor were there very many shots on net. Both sides played hard, deliberate hockey but the scoring chances were few. The hitting was elevated but the players kept it clean.
Wisconsin evened the game with just over ten minutes left to play. It was a power-play goal following 30 minutes of scoreless hockey. After 60 minutes the teams were tied, and for the second straight night, Penn State played overtime hockey.
The overtime periods featured a great deal of excitement. The effort was equal or better than it had been in regulation, which is notable since Wisconsin usually employs a relaxed style and Penn State was playing its 12th period of hockey in three days.
Liam Folkes got the game-winner to clinch the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for Penn State, it was his third goal in the Big Ten tournament after scoring three goals in the regular season. The NCAA selection show will be broadcast on Sunday at noon on ESPNU. That is when the Lions will learn their destination for the NCAA tournament.
The first five minutes of the game began with each team skating fast but cautious, not wanting to make an early mistake. Play opened up a little bit by the midway point in the period but there were few quality scoring chances.
With 6:27 to go Wisconsin was called for the first penalty of the game when Cameron Hughes was called for running into Penn State goalie Peyton Jones. The Lions were unable to score with the extra skater, but nine seconds after the penalty expired Liam Folkes broke the ice for the game’s first goal. Brandon Biro and Kris Myllari assisted on the play.
The first period ended with Penn State up 1-0.
James Robinson took the first penalty of the game for Penn State early in the second period. The Lions killed the penalty with ease, allowing just a couple of low-percentage scoring chances along the way.
With five minutes left in the second period Penn State had only 13 total shots for the game. It was a sign that the overall tempo of the game was favoring Wisconsin, if not the scoreboard. But the slower, more deliberate approach aided in Penn State’s ability to exert less energy than it normally would following a double-overtime game on Friday night.
The final period was much of the same as Penn State seemed content to play a more controlled style of hockey, matching the Badgers style. With ten minutes left to play in the game, Wisconsin had a 22-20 edge in shots on goal. The Lions have had nearly 20 shots in just a single period this year many times.
Erik Autio, the hero in the NCAA Tournament-clinching victory on Friday night versus Minnesota, took a penalty with 11:20 remaining in the game. It didn’t take long for Wisconsin to take advantage, as Matt Ustaski scored a power-play goal and the game was tied at one apiece midway through the third period.
The game went to overtime with Wisconsin holding the edge in shots on goal at a 33-22 clip. It was the lowest total for three periods of hockey all season for the Lions. Until midway through the final period, the pace of the game was the only clear advantage for the Badgers, but at the end of regulation it became clear that the Lions were emptying their collective gas tank, playing hard but finding it hard to stay aggressive on offense.
There was no noticeable lack of fuel in the tank, fire in the belly or resolve on either side in the overtime period. The first five minutes of the extra period was some of the most wide-open hockey that was played to that point. The following five minutes were solid but neither team had a serious chance to score.
A horrible call against Nikita Pavlychev put the Lions on a penalty kill with five minutes left in overtime. After burying their whistles for the final five minutes of regulation and the entire overtime period, a ticky-tack call put the Lions’ hopes of winning in jeopardy. Trent Frederic hit the goal post during the power-play but Wisconsin was unable to score with the man advantage. For the second time in two nights, the Lions went to double-overtime.
The second overtime began with a furious pace and Penn State holding the advantage. There were a few quality scoring chances for both sides in the first three minutes.
Liam Folkes ended the game with a breakaway goal in the second overtime.
After the game Liam Folkes was interviewed on the ice.
Stars of the Game
First Star- Peyton Jones, Penn State. Win, 51 saves (career high). Big Ten Tournament MVP.
Second Star- Liam Folkes, Penn State. 2 goals.
Third Star- Brandon Biro, Penn State. 2 assists.