One of Guy Gadowsky’s many mantras is how hockey is an unpredictable game. A game played on razor-thin blades with swinging sticks and the human error of officiating is sure to produce lucky (and unlucky) moments.
The distribution of that luck often comes down to which team works harder. Such was the case on Friday night.
Thanks to a late goal by Sean Dhooghe, Wisconsin topped Penn State 4-3 in Game One of the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament.
“Wisconsin deserved to win because they played better,” coach Guy Gadowsky said following the game. “I think it took us a long time to get our footing and play our game. Against a team like that, if you’re not playing your game right away you’re going to pay.”
Mental errors from the Nittany Lions handed the game to the Badgers early in the contest. Midway through the first period, an ill-advised pass from Evan Bell landed on the stick of Tarek Baker in the slot, leading to the Badgers first goal of the night.
A few minutes later, Evan Barratt took an unnecessary cross checking penalty in the offensive zone. Dhooghe scored his first of the night on the ensuing power play.
“Every game you could mention things like that, but tonight we just didn’t execute at all,” Gadowsky said. “We made big mistakes with the puck. We’re normally pretty sure with the puck and care for the puck well, but we made a lot of mistakes.”
While the previously mentioned mistakes are the most obvious as they show up on the scoresheet, many more in the form of misfired passes or posts hit contributed to the Nittany Lions demise as they now face a do-or-die scenario in Game Two of the series.
The Nittany Lions may face that situation without their most impactful player. As the final horn sounded, Evan Barratt, who contributed two assists and played a major role in all three Nittany Lions goals, leveled Badgers defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk into the boards behind the Wisconsin net.
A look at the hit from Evan Barratt on Wyatt Kalynuk, Wisconsin's team MVP. Kalynuk stayed down for a bit afterwards.— Patrick Burns (@PatrickBurns_) March 9, 2019
The Badgers have been without another elite defenseman, K'Andre Miller, for the last seven games, while captain Peter Tischke left Friday's contest early. pic.twitter.com/bi9hm9Eq4q
As Kalynuk laid motionless for a moment, Barratt was issued a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind. Barratt explained to Gadowsky that he was reacting to a possible hit from Kalynuk. Regardless of the intent, Barratt may face supplemental discipline for the hit, which would put the Nittany Lions in an even more difficult position.
“I don’t know what the deal is with Barratt. If he’s not playing tomorrow, then we’ve got to adjust,” linemate Liam Folkes said. “We’ve played without Barratt in the past. If he isn’t out there, that’s too bad. If he is, that’s great.”
How It Happened
The two sides traded opportunities until the Badgers opened the scoring midway through the first period. Evan Bell threw an ill-advised pass in front of Peyton Jones. Tarek Baker intercepted the pass and fired a shot past Jones’ blocker.
A few minutes later, another mental mistake led to the Badgers’ second goal. With Evan Barratt in the penalty box for an offensive zone penalty, Sean Dhooghe deflected a point shot past Jones to double Wisconsin’s lead.
The Nittany Lions responded quickly. Just over a minute after Dhooghe’s tally, Alex Limoges picked up his own rebound and flipped a shot past Daniel Lebedeff.
Midway through the second period, Dhooghe picked up his second of the night shortly after a Badgers power play expired. Dhooghe gathered a rebound off Jones and slid a backhand shot by the netminder’s pad.
Early in the third period, the Nittany Lions got back within a goal thanks to an unlikely contributor. After an extraordinary sequence of puck movement, Paul DeNaples flipped the puck into the net for his second goal of the season.
A largely frantic third period slowed down as both sides tried to avoid handing the game to the other team. With under two minutes to play, Dhooghe capped off a hat trick as he fired a sharp angle shot on net. The puck appeared to deflect off a Penn State defenseman and snuck through Jones, landing just on the other side of the goal line.