Penn State (20-9-2) was unable to match the scoring power of Wisconsin (19-11-1) on the opening night of a critical home series. With the win, the Badgers pull into a tie with Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten standings. The loss only drops Penn State one spot in the PairWise rankings, and for now the team remains in position for the NCAA tournament. The teams will play game two of the series on Saturday at 8 p.m.
The first period was marked by five combined penalties. Wisconsin got a goal by Will Johnson on the first Badger shot of the game. Penn State answered with a power-play goal by Andrew Sturtz, his 20th of the season. The Lions dominated the first period, maintaining a 16-6 lead in shots on goal and holding the puck in their offensive zone for a majority of the first 20 minutes. The teams were tied after one period.
The second period was once again changed by a penalty, this time a five-minute major boarding call on Brandon Biro. The Badgers didn’t score with the advantage, but shortly after the penalty the tired Lions gave up a goal and were down 3-1 midway through the game. Nate Sucese cut the lead to one goal with 2:20 left in the period when he scored his fourteenth of the season. Andrew Sturtz scored for the second time to tie the game a couple of minutes prior to the second intermission. With 11 seconds left in the period, Penn State turned the puck over and the Badgers scored to take a 4-3 lead.
The third period started with a goal from Wisconsin and then a quick answer by Penn State’s Dylan Richard, and the game was 5-4 for the majority of the period. The Badgers added a goal with five minutes left and an empty-netter a few minutes later to finish out the 7-4 victory.
The teams skated for the first five minutes without incident, the Lions leading 4-0 in shots. PSU went on the first power-play of the game but was unable to score, managing just one shot in two minutes.
Wisconsin scored on its first shot on goal when Will Johnson took a pass from Ryan Wagner, leaving Peyton Jones exposed. Ten minutes into the game, the Lions dominated play but it was the Badgers with the lead.
With 8:19 remaining in the period, Penn State went on the power-play once again. It didn’t take long for the Lions to take advantage. Andrew Sturtz stayed with a play in front of the net, putting his own rebound in for his 20th goal of the season. Sturtz was initially denied by Badger goalie Jack Berry but he put the next attempt in the back of the net while surrounded by defensemen trying to stop him. Vince Pedrie and Erik Autio assisted on the play.
The teams got into a scuffle after the whistle with 3:15 to go before the first intermission. Each team was given a 2-minute penalty and the teams skated 4 on 4. During the penalty, Trevor Hamilton knocked a Badger player completely into the Penn State bench. The legal but hard hip-check angered Wisconsin and seconds later JD Greenway hit Denis Smirnov very hard and high and was called for a penalty. The Lions had a 4-3 edge for nearly a minute and a half but were unable to score.
The second period began with the Badgers taking the early advantage, as Seamus Malone got an odd-man rush breakaway shot for a 2-1 lead.
With 12:55 on the clock Brandon Biro took a 5-minute major penalty and game misconduct for boarding. The Lions went on the penalty-kill trailing by a goal. PSU was able to kill the entire penalty and even had two great short-handed scoring chances. Unfortunately, the team was not able to clear the puck following the penalty kill and was unable to get fresh bodies on the ice. A minute later, the Badgers scored an even-strength goal, but the play was heavily influenced by the questionable call on Biro. Tired legs on a mixed-match group on the ice was finally beaten by a cross-ice pass.
Nate Sucese answered with 2:20 to go in the period. A slap-shot over the glove of Berry got the lead down to 3-2. It was goal number 14 for the freshman, who is on a recent scoring streak. Moments later Andrew Sturtz tied the game when he and Alec Marsh worked a turnover on some solid fore-checking. Marsh got the puck across the ice to a cutting Sturtz and he finished for his 21st goal of the season.
Late in the period the Lions gave up a goal to Matt Ustaski. The score came with just 11 seconds left, and it was very deflating after the Lions made a great comeback to that point.
Wisconsin scored first in the final period. Grant Besse got a 5-3 lead off a very soft goal past Jones. The puck never seemed to settle and as Jones struggled to slow it down it slid into the net. The Lions didn’t let it get them down, as Andrew Sturtz got a great backhand pass to Dylan Richard to cut the lead to 5-4 with 15:30 left in the game.
The teams skated evenly for the next ten minutes but the Badgers scored next to take a 6-4 lead. Kris Myllari broke his stick on a slap-shot from the point and then was left defending an odd-man break without a stick. It was a critical break at a time when the Lions had gained momentum. Wisconsin added an empty-net goal for the 7-4 win.
Stars of the Game
First Star- Ryan Wagner, Wisconsin. Two goals and an assist.
Second Star- Andrew Sturtz, Penn State. 2 goals and an assist.
Third Star- Jack Berry, Wisconsin. Win and 34 saves.