Just a couple of weeks ago, it seemed that Penn State would roll through the remainder of the regular season. During an 11-game unbeaten streak, the Nittany Lions’ offense was running on all cylinders and while there were occasional lapses on defense, the team had cut down drastically on its goals-against average.
As Guy Gadowsky’s squad prepares for a weekend series against Wisconsin, it will have to try to get back on track to extend its season beyond the Big Ten Tournament. The No. 14 Lions have lost three consecutive games and find themselves square on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament conversation.
While each subsequent loss will trim the Lions postseason hopes, some aren’t approaching the weekend with that urgent mentality, though they certainly understand the importance of each remaining game.
“Obviously, we want to win every game,” alternate captain Chase Berger said. “For the rest of the time going, these are all huge games. The thing that we can focus on is that we want to play the right way, the way that we know we can and that we’ve seen when it’s not only the Big Ten Championship but a lot of games this year.”
While Penn State has been struggling for the past few games, Wisconsin has been going through a rough stretch of its own. The No. 18 Badgers have gone 2-5-1 in their last eight games, including a 2-0 loss to Big Ten bottom dweller Michigan State.
The Badgers are fresh off an impressive performance, however, as they handed conference-leading Notre Dame its first Big Ten loss of the season, defeating the Fighting Irish 5-0. The No. 1 Irish had gone 13-0-0 in conference play and were riding a 16-game winning streak. Gadowsky doesn’t want the Badgers’ momentum to alter his team’s game plan heading into the weekend.
“Whether they won 5-0 or lost 5-0, we expect them to be flying on Friday at home,” he said.
Just two series removed from their first matchup, the Badgers have gone 2-2-0 in the past two weeks. Leading scorer Ryan Wagner has just two points — a goal and an assist — in that span, while top defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk notched three points in that span and ranks second in team scoring with 20 points.
After being pulled in the first game between the two teams, Jack Berry has appeared in just one contest since giving up four goals on 10 shots, but that one contest was an otherworldly, 40-save shutout against the Irish.