Guy Gadowsky thought his team had learned its lesson. Tony Granato’s certainly did.
Penn State has made a nasty habit of dominating an opponent on Friday night only to fall victim to its own confidence on Saturday night and getting blown out themselves. Such was the case against Wisconsin.
After throttling the Badgers on Friday, the Badgers flipped the script on the Nittany Lions, defeating Gadowsky’s squad 7-3 in their regular season home finale.
“It’s up to me to make sure we’re ready to compete, and we weren’t,” Gadowsky said following the game. “I keep thinking we’ve learned the lesson but we obviously haven’t.”
The lesson has become repetitive to the Nittany Lions. This marked the fifth instance this season where they won the opening game of a weekend series but failed to complete the sweep the following night.
That inconsistency has come back to bite the Nittany Lions, who sit on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble with just one regular season series remaining. Perhaps fittingly, that series comes against Notre Dame, who are one spot ahead of the Nittany Lions and also fighting for their tournament lives.
While Gadowsky takes the blame for the team’s unpreparedness, captain Chase Berger pins the blame on himself and his teammates.
“The guys weren’t ready to go, and that starts with me, starts at the top,” he said.
Berger does see the positive side of the problem though.
“The good news is, you see it. It’s very clear,” he said. “Friday night we play our game and we score eight goals, give up two. We think it’s going to be cute the next night, and we get killed by the same team.”
While the Nittany Lions haven’t yet learned their lesson on how to show up back-to-back nights, Granato learned his lesson on how to ensure the Nittany Lions’ trend continued.
“You’ve got to catch them on a bad night, you’ve got to be great defensively and you’ve got to be ready to jump on the attack,” Granato noted as the keys to getting Penn State off its game.
The Badgers accomplished each of those on Saturday. The Nittany Lions certainly assisted them as Berger admitted they were trying to be too cute. Midway through regulation, the Badgers had limited the Nittany Lions to just 11 shots and had built a 3-0 lead by that point.
Though the Nittany Lions would pot three goals and add 30 shots to their totals by the end of the night, the Badgers counterattack continued to be effective as they responded almost instantly to each of the Nittany Lions three tallies.
How It Happened
After a pair of successful penalty kills, the Badgers turned that momentum into the opening goal of the game. Jack Gorniak picked up the puck on an odd-man rush, worked his way toward the middle and fired a shot over the glove of Peyton Jones.
Late in the period, the Badgers doubled their lead. Skating four aside, Josh Ess received a perfect feed from Linus Weissbach and broke away one-on-one against Jones. Ess lifted a shot past Jones’ blocker to give the Badgers a 2-0 lead.
Early in the second period, the Badgers went up three goals. Weissbach continued his excellent night as he caught Jones off his post and banked a shot in off the netminder’s shoulder.
Midway through the period, the Nittany Lions finally got onto the board. After Alex Limoges did much of the work getting the puck to the net, Adam Pilewicz finished it off, knocking a rebound past Daniel Lebedeff.
A few minutes later, Ess netted his second of the night as the Badgers regained a three-goal lead. After the puck popped out to Ess off a faceoff, the Badger defenseman wristed a shot through a crowd that Jones never saw as it floated past his shoulder.
Shortly after, Tarek Baker made it a four-goal game with a shorthanded tally. On an offensive zone turnover by the Nittany Lions, Baker picked up the puck near his own blue line and raced ahead on a breakaway. Baker deked out Jones and slid a backhand shot into the net.
With the period winding down, Chase Berger gave the Nittany Lions a goal they desperately needed heading into the third period. Berger knocked in the rebound of Alex Stevens shot with under ten seconds to play in the period.
Early in the third period, Matthew Freytag squashed any hopes of a comeback for the Nittany Lions. Though Penn State won a defensive zone draw, Freytag outworked everyone as he stole the puck and sent a backhand shot through Jones to make it 6-2.
Brandon Biro trimmed into the Badgers lead with six and a half to play, burying a pass from Alec Marsh on a 2-on-1.
With just over four minutes remaining, Gadowsky pulled his goalie in an effort to even the game. Moments after vacating the net, Seamus Malone buried the dagger.