Penn State had plenty to play for Saturday night. Not only was it the last time five seniors would be playing in front of the crowd at Pegula Ice Arena, it was also a chance to solidify a spot in the NCAA Tournament conversation. With the win, the Lions move to No. 9 in the PairWise rankings, which will likely be enough to garner the team its first NCAA tournament appearance in program history. One win versus Michigan next week, or a win in the Big Ten tournament, will solidify the team’s chances if it hasn’t already done enough to qualify.
The win ties the Penn State program record of 21 set last season with at least three more games to play. It also is the third-straight winning record in conference play for Guy Gadowsky’s squad. Only Minnesota has a longer streak of success in Big Ten play.
One of the pregame honorees made his last night in front of the Penn State faithful one to remember, and in the process ensured the Nittany Lions would be in a good position on selection day. Captain David Goodwin picked up a pair of goals as the Lions blew out Wisconsin 5-0 in what was as close to a must-win game as the Lions have had this season.
While the win may not guarantee the Lions a spot in the NCAA Tournament, it should give them an edge over conference foes like Ohio State and the Badgers. It was also something coach Guy Gadowsky was happy to be a part of.
"To play really meaningful games in March, it's stressful but it's fun."
A slow start to the contest picked up with an extended period of offensive pressure by the Lions that resulted in several chances and a Badgers’ penalty for tripping. As the ensuing power play was winding down, Kris Myllari took a pass from Brandon Biro, pumping three shots on Matt Jurusik, the last of which found the back of the net.
Under a minute later, Denis Smirnov deflected a pass out of the air to Nate Sucese, who found Goodwin uncontested in the middle of the ice. Goodwin picked the corner on Jurusik, doubling the Lions’ lead.
The assist on Goodwin’s goal also gave Smirnov the single-season record for points with 41, besting Casey Bailey’s mark of 40 in the 2014-15 season.
Midway through the second period, the Lions got some help from their opposition to make it a three-goal game. David Thompson fired a shot from the point that was blocked. As it caromed toward the front of the net, it bounced off the skate of Jake Bunz.
While turning as he tried to gain control of the puck, Bunz swatted the puck into his own net.
The Lions held onto the three-goal lead through the rest of the second and into the third. Midway through the final frame, Goodwin picked up his second of the game, a virtual carbon copy of his first tally of the night.
Goodwin’s second goal gave him 43 in his career, two behind the program-record of 45 held by Bailey. Goodwin is confident he will be able to match that total, though he wasn’t sure how many he had after tonight’s performance.
Two minutes later, Alec Marsh extended the lead, tapping in a pass from Chase Berger after a 2-on-1.
With the game winding down and the Lions firmly in control, the Badgers took a pair of penalties with under two minutes remaining, giving the Lions a five-on-three opportunity. Straying from his typical power play units, Gadowsky sent his five seniors — Goodwin, Thompson, Dylan Richard, Ricky DeRosa and Zach Saar — onto the ice.
The seniors cycled the puck, firing the occasional shot on Jurusik. With under 10 seconds remaining, Saar flicked his wrists and sent a long-range shot on goal. The puck fluttered past Jurusik for Saar’s fourth of the season and 15th of his career, ending the scoring for the game and the home schedule for the Lions.