The game was already billed as do or die. Both Penn State and Wisconsin needed a win in Game 3 of the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals to keep their season alive.
Given the history between the two teams, perhaps it was destiny that brought the decisive game to overtime.
Destiny must have been having fun when it decided the winner.
Just over halfway through the first overtime period, Liam Folkes blasted a one timer to the back of the net to send Penn State through to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
While more sudden and less flashy than his previous overtime winner against the Badgers, Folkes’ tally has kept Penn State’s season alive. The Nittany Lions will now travel to Ohio State to take on the Buckeyes in the single-game semifinals of the conference tournament.
No one seemed surprised that Folkes once again played the hero. In fact, it was almost expected he would be the one to end the game.
“Walking out [for overtime], the guys that didn’t dress were sitting in the lounge. I just quickly asked, ‘Who’s got them?’” Guy Gadowsky said. “Two of them spoke up right away, ‘Folksey, Folkesy.’”
Folkes finished off the play, but the hard work was done by his linemates, Alex Limoges and Evan Barratt. The two pressured the Badgers behind the net before Limoges came away with the puck.
In that time, Folkes found himself standing alone in the slot. The rest was simple.
The reaction was priceless.
“I was gassed. I was dead tired,” goaltender Peyton Jones said. “So when I saw the puck go in, I was thankful.”
Not everyone will be so thrilled to see Folkes’ name in the headlines once again.
“[Andrew] Sturtz texted our whole group chat before the game. He said, ‘Someone [else] get it done. I’m sick of seeing that Liam Folkes breakaway highlight,” Jones explained.
The elation will have to be limited. Penn State faces the challenge of having to beat the No. 1 seed at home when the Nittany Lions face the Buckeyes on Sunday.
It’s in this type of desperate scenario that Penn State has thrived the past couple of seasons, however. The Nittany Lions have used last-minute pushes to reach the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons. This year will be no different should the Nittany Lions make it three in a row.
“I think that’s a testament to the locker room. I think Peyton’s got to take a lot of credit for that too,” Gadowsky said. “I think it’s easy to get really tight in the playoffs and in overtime particularly. I think the way he handles himself wears off and I think there’s a lot of other leaders in that room that follow that pattern as well.”
How It Happened
Just over a minute into the game, Liam Folkes continued his remarkable weekend in opening the scoring. After a Badgers turnover in the neutral zone, Daniel Lebedeff had trouble controlling a wrist shot from Denis Smirnov. Folkes hopped on the rebound and whacked home a backhand shot.
A few minutes later, Brock Caufield leveled the game for Wisconsin. After a point shot didn’t make it through to Jones, Caufield found the loose puck and fired a shot off the post an in.
Early in the second period, Cole Hults put the Nittany Lions back in front. On Penn State’s first power play of the night, Hults fired a wrist shot from the point that found its way through a crowd and past Lebedeff.
Midway through the period, the Badgers netted a quick pair to take over the lead. On Wisconsin’s third power play of the game, the Nittany Lions failed to convert on a shorthanded chance. Max Zimmer led a 2-on-1 the other way and finished off a give-and-go with Sean Dhooghe to level the game at two.
Just 24 seconds later, Josh Ess gave the Badgers their first lead of the game. With the Nittany Lions scrambling in the defensive zone, Ess received a pass in the slot and fired a quick shot into the top corner of the net.
Late in the period, the Nittany Lions took advantage of a missed opportunity for Wisconsin. After the Badgers failed to convert a 4-on-1 rush, Alex Limoges leveled the game at three as he beat Lebedeff on an odd man rush.
Both teams created plenty of chances in the final period of regulation, but neither side could find the back of the net. Penn State escaped a key moment in overtime where the Badgers could have ended the Nittany Lions’ season.
As Jones left his net to play a dump in, the puck bounced off a stanchion and in front of the net. Fortunately for Jones and Penn State, the Badgers couldn’t jump on the loose puck before it was cleared from danger.
After the extra period settled down, Penn State’s top trio went to work in the attacking zone. Folkes found a soft spot in Wisconsin’s defense, and one timed a pass from Limoges into the back of the net to keep Penn State’s season alive.