UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.— With a win on Friday night, and a Minnesota loss at the hands of Michigan, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team moved back into a first-place tie atop the Big Ten standings.
Six different players scored for the Badgers (19-11-1, 12-5-0-0 Big Ten) as they defeated Penn State (20-9-2, 9-7-1-0) by a score of 7-4 at Pegula Ice Arena.
In terms of shots on goal, Penn State dominated the first period, outshooting the Badgers 16-6 in the opening frame. However, it was Will Johnson who opened the scoring for UW, netting his ninth goal of the season about nine minutes into the game. The sophomore forward finished off a nice pass from Ryan Wagner, who earned his 18th assist of the year on the play.
As was the case throughout the game, Penn State battled back to tie the game about three minutes later on a power-play goal from Andrew Sturtz to make it 1-1.
Jack Berry stood tall many times throughout the first 20 minutes, finishing with 15 saves to preserve the 1-1 tie heading into the second period.
“The first period, they kind of picked us apart,” head coach Tony Granato said. “We didn’t skate real well and they came out real well but we were able to survive that. Berry made some really big saves for us.”
Seamus Malone gave the Badgers a 2-1 lead 4:58 into the second period, as his shot barely crossed the line after deflecting off of Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones. Aidan Cavallini and Corbin McGuire earned helpers on Malone’s 10th goal of his sophomore campaign.
Jason Ford netted a goal 13 minutes into the period to give UW their first two-goal lead of the contest. The junior forward finished off a Jake Linhart rebound, which came after a strong shift from Will Johnson.
The second period came to a roaring conclusion as three goals were scored in the final 2:20. Penn State made it a 3-2 game on Nate Sucese’s 14th goal of the year and Sturtz added his second of the game just 58 seconds later to tie it at 3-3.
The Cardinal and White snatched back the momentum that PSU had as Matt Ustaski fired in a wrist shot with 12 seconds remaining in the period to give UW a 4-3 lead heading into the second intermission. The junior picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and was able to convert by himself on a 3-on-1 opportunity.
Pucks continued to fly in the net in the third period, starting with Grant Besse, who scored the eventual game-winning goal four minutes into the
stanza. The goal, assisted by Malone and Cavallini, was Besse’s first marker in 14 games, last scoring on Dec. 10 against Michigan.
The Nittany Lions responded quickly, scoring just 1:10 later from Dylan Richard, to make it 5-4.
Both teams continued to push for a goal, and it was Ryan Wagner who sealed the game with two goals of his own. The first one was an incredible individual effort, dancing through the PSU defense and firing the second-chance opportunity past Jones as he was falling to the ground.
The second tally was an empty-net goal to seal the Badgers’ 7-4 victory.
“I thought we played really smart with the puck as the game went on,” Granato said. “When you’re on the road and you have a lead, with especially how dynamic they are offensively, that was a heck of a period for us not giving up many chances.”
Berry finished with 34 saves on 38 shots on the evening.
With the win and Minnesota’s loss, the Badgers and Gophers are now tied in first place in the Big Ten with 36 points and three games remaining. UM finishes up their series against Michigan in Ann Arbor tomorrow night.
Additionally, with Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State, the Badgers can finish no lower than third place in the standings.
“The good thing about this team is that all year we haven’t focused on what everyone else is doing,” Granato said. “Our whole focus has been try to get better each weekend and face each challenge and not really worry about what else is going on. Obviously, we are in a good position this late in the season and we are proud to be where we are at.”