Penn State completes sweep of Wisconsin with 5-2 win

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.

(uwbadgers.com)

Wisconsin, Penn State both miss College Football Playoff field

INDIANAPOLIS — As runner-up in the Big Ten Championship game, Wisconsin wasn’t expected to make the College Football Playoff field, but Sunday’s release also omitted Big Ten champion Penn State.

The Top Six (Top Four make CFP)

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Ohio State
  4. Washington
  5. Penn State
  6. Michigan

After a 42-35 win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game, Clemson rose to No. 2 in the committee’s eyes, while Ohio State dropped to No. 3, having not played a conference championship game.

After missing out on the playoff field, Wisconsin will find out its postseason bowl game and opponent at 1:30 p.m. central time.

B1G title game preview: No. 6 Wisconsin vs No. 7 Penn State

THE BASICS

The teams: The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers (10-2, 7-2) vs the No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2 8-1)

The time: 7:17 p.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.

The TV coverage: Fox with Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt in the booth, and Shannon Spake on the sideline.

The last time: In the 2013 season finale, Penn State freshman Christian Hackenberg threw for 339 yards and four touchdowns, as the Nittany Lions ruined Wisconsin’s Senior Day 31-24.

The series: Wisconsin 9-8

The line: Wisconsin -2.5

The Badgers injury report:

QUESTIONABLE

QB Alex Hornibrook (head)

DL Conor Sheehy (arm)

OUT

OL Jake Maxwell (shoulder)

THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) Playing for a title and potentially more

Wisconsin and Penn State will play for a Big Ten title on Saturday night, but much more is potentially at stake for both teams. As it stands, the Badgers are at No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings, with the Nittany Lions just one spot behind them. Though the chances are low that either gets selected by the playoff committee, an impressive performance in Indianapolis could just sway some people.

2) Erasing bad memories

The number of impact players that remain from Wisconsin’s 2014 team are few and far between, but the ones that are still around remember with terror their last trip to Lucas Oil Stadium. Favored by 4.5 points against Ohio State and its third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, the Badgers got steamrolled 59-0 in that year’s Big Ten title game. Many players, including cornerback Sojourn Shelton, called it their lowest moment on a football field. Saturday night presents an opportunity to change how they’ll remember trips to Indianapolis.

3) Stopping the big play

No team in the Big Ten has accounted for more big plays on offense than Penn State. They lead the league in plays of 30 or more yards, 40 or more yards and 50 or more yards. The Badgers are well aware of the explosiveness, and have done a good job this year of limiting plays like that, giving up just eight plays of 40 or more yards — 10th fewest in the country.

What makes the Nittany Lions unique, though, is that quarterback Trace McSorely will throw into coverage to give his guys an opportunity to make a play on the ball. It’ll be paramount for the Badgers to win their share of those 50-50 balls, and perhaps even add to their nation-leading 21 interceptions.

4) Slowing Saquon

Slow Saquon Barkley and slow Penn State’s offense, right? Not exactly, but putting the clamps on the Big Ten offensive player of the year is among the higher priorities for the Wisconsin defense.

Barkley, who is dealing with a foot injury suffered last week against Michigan State, has had some monster games this year and also some real duds, including against the Spartans before he left. But he’s also the Nittany Lions best player and the Badgers need to make him a non-factor. To do that, they’ll need to be better against the read-option than they were last week. Minnesota gashed them early thanks to a lack of contain by the outside linebackers.

5) Two-quarterback system

Alex Hornibrook practiced all week after leaving the Minnesota game with a head injury, and is listed as questionable for the game. But even if he’s cleared to play, should he be under center to to start the game? Backup Bart Houston has been really good of late, leading touchdown drives on 10 of his 17 full possessions the last three games.

It seems unlikely that if Hornibrook is cleared to play that coach Paul Chryst will change anything, sticking with the redshirt freshman as his starter and Houston coming in on the third or fourth series, but it is something to watch.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

Wisconsin will play in its fourth Big Ten title game since its inception in 2011. Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State have a total of four appearances combined.

Over his last three games, quarterback Bart Houston has a passer rating of 195.7. Stretched out over an entire season, that rating would be the best in the country.

Wisconsin leads in the nation in interceptions with 21, which is more than the 18 they had the last two seasons combined.

The 2016 senior class has won 40 games during their time in Madison. One more win would make them the winningest class in Wisconsin history.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Penn State 21 (8-4 on the season)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, Penn State 17 (9-3 on the season)
Jake Zimmermann’s prediction: Wisconsin 28 , Penn State 17 (10-2 on the season)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 31 , Penn State 14 (9-3 on the season)
Eric Rogers’ prediction: Wisconsin 23, Penn State 14 (10-2 on the season)