Penn State came into Thursday’s game against Wisconsin with hopes of taking down their second quality opponent in this tournament. They stuck to their formula: keep the puck out of the net, a strategy that served them well again. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, Michael Merch’s two goals in the second period would be enough for Wisconsin to advance to the B1G Ten Hockey Tournament Championship game.
PSU goaltender Matthew Skoff had another very good afternoon, making 32 save on 34 shots. The sophomore might be the best returning asset on the roster. In a conference featuring outstanding goaltending, his play will likely dictate whether or not Penn State climbs out of the B1G Ten basement next year.
After a scoreless first period, Penn State opened the scoring less than a minute into the second period, but Mersch would answer thirty seconds later to even the game. That goal was huge, as it prevented PSU from settling in to playing with the lead.
The Badgers did a very good job of taking the Nittany Lions out of their offensive system, namely, getting a bunch of shots and wearing out the goaltender. After putting up 44 shots in regulation yesterday, Penn State would only put 25 shots onto Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel. Penn State has to rely on quantity shooting rather than quality shooting, so they’re going to struggle to score if they’re held to under 30 shots.
Mersch scored the game-winner late in the second period on the power play.
Penn State wasn’t able to must much desperation intensity in the third period, and Wisconsin did a fine job controlling the puck and eating clock down the stretch. One has to wonder if the two overtime periods took some gas out of PSU’s tank for the last period.
Wisconsin outshot Penn State in each of the three periods, and held the Nittany Lions under ten shots each period.
On the whole, Wisconsin played a nice game warm-up game for the championship. They pulled out the victory and got their skates under them on the Xcel Energy Center’s ice, where they’ve had a lot of success recently. They’ll be ready for the winner of Minnesota vs. Ohio State, currently in progress on BTN.