MADISON, Wis. — Although the Wisconsin men’s hockey team (15-10-1, 8-4-0-0 Big Ten) made several comeback efforts in Saturday’s game, they ultimately fell short against ninth-ranked Penn State (18-6-2, 7-4-1-0) by a score of 5-2 at the Kohl Center.
The weekend sweep marked the first time the Badgers have lost consecutive games all season.
“It’s a weekend to learn from. It’s a weekend to say Penn State was a better team this weekend,” head coach Tony Granato said. “We can’t say, ‘well we had our chances and coulda, woulda, shoulda.’ We didn’t have our chances to win games this series. They were good. We weren’t good enough. This is the first weekend all year that at the end of it you say we got beat by a better team.”
The first period started with chances on both ends of the ice, creating a lively atmosphere to the first few minutes. Penn State struck first 13:33 into the frame on Nate Sucese’s ninth goal of the season.
Wisconsin denied PSU a lead at the first intermission on Matt Ustaski‘s third goal of the year with 23 seconds to play in the period. The junior was left all alone in front and Grant Besse made a smooth backhanded pass from behind the goal-line to find Ustaski for the finish. The secondary assist went to Tim Davison on the play.
Goaltender Matt Jurusik made 10 saves in the stanza.
Penn State began to show their offensive prowess in the second period, gaining a 2-1 lead on Sucese’s second goal of the game. Denis Smirnov extended PSU’s lead to two about three and a half minutes later for his 13th goal of the year.
“I think it’s pretty much the whole series they played smart, they played a better road game than we were able to handle. I think they really did,” head coach Tony Granato said. “They were that good pretty much the whole series. Like I said there hasn’t been a team come in this building or anywhere we’ve played on the road that at the end of two games you say well they were the better team. This weekend they were.”
The Cardinal and White clawed a goal back on the power play with 3:33 to go in the period when Luke Kunin scored for the fourth consecutive game, nothing the
19th goal of his sophomore campaign. The power-play tally was assisted by Cameron Hughes and Trent Frederic.
Hughes extended his team’s longest point streak of the season to 10 games with the assist.
For the second night in a row, the Badgers looked to carry momentum over into the beginning of the third period, but Penn State promptly deflated the Badgers with a goal just 2:53 into the final frame. Smirnov scored on a breakaway, slipping the puck under Jurusik to make it 4-2.
“Yeah, we were definitely hoping we could carry some momentum in there and come out strong in the third, but it didn’t happen so like I said, we just need to learn from it and be better,” Kunin said.
Trevor Hamilton put extra salt in UW’s wounds, as he made it a three-goal game with 5:21 left in regulation, sealing the Badgers’ 5-2 defeat.
Jurusik wound up making 39 saves on 44 shots faced on the evening.
“I think we just need to reset a little bit mentally,” Jurusik said. “We need to realize some weekends aren’t going to go our way and, me personally, I just got to reset my mind and get back to playing the game I was and I think that’s going to be a big help for the team as we go into next weekend.”
Wisconsin will look to bounce back from their first sweep of the year next weekend as they host Michigan. The two-game series will be part of UW’s annual white-out, so all fans are encouraged to wear white on both Friday and Saturday.