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Penn State Hockey: 3-2 Victory Over Wisconsin Sets Up Defining Series Against Minnesota

by on February 15, 2020 11:40 PM

Penn State men's hockey won on Saturday night 3-2 over Wisconsin, the first step on a very long and somewhat complex list of things the Nittany Lions are hoping will happen over the next 14 days.

But first the game.

Alex Limoges scored 7:08 into regulation to give Penn State a 1-0 lead. The Nittany Lions looked sharper on Saturday night than Friday and a fairly consistent offensive effort would lead to a second goal midway through the second period by defenseman Cole Hults.

Ahead 2-0 the Nittany Lions felt in control for the first time in weeks, but that comfort quickly vanished as Wisconsin cut the defect to one with just 11 seconds remaining in the period. Ahead just 2-1 going into the third, it was a similar song and dance Penn State has come out on the wrong side of so many times before. Close it out, but only if you can.

A goal by Evan Bell just 4:35 into the period went a long way towards that objective with what would turn out to be the game-winning tally on the offensive end as Peyton Jones chipped in a game-saving effort with 10 third period stops.

Wisconsin would get one back in the final minute but couldn't find an equalizer as the seconds ticked down, perhaps one fortunate bounce to finally go Penn State's way.

The Nittany Lions have entered a part of the year where results matter more than ever. Of course Penn State also finds itself in this situation, tied atop the Big Ten standings with Minnesota because of opportunities missed, but with two games remaining in the regular season a Big Ten title is still within reach, just barely.

Enter next weekend's series against Minnesota, the two top teams in the conference battling it out for a points advantage heading into the final weekend of play. For Penn State the margin of error is slim, the Nittany Lions sitting idle the final week of the regular season will need a convoluted list of things to go correctly in order to win. But first comes that final home stand. A sweep would put Penn State in prime position with a little help to lock up that title, some form of a win and overtime results would do the same. Beyond that is a web of permutations of possible results across the conference.

It's fitting that this series will come down to Minnesota, a team that Penn State had the hardest time beating in the early years of the program's existence, only to turn the tables and no repeatedly and regularly beat the Gophers in the ensuing years. For Minnesota, taking a Big Ten title out of the grasp of Penn State would be a sweet bit of revenge. Perhaps a story for another day.

When it's all said and done it feels likely that Penn State will look back and "what if" so many parts of the year. But yet again the Nittany Lions find themselves still in the hunt as the regular season enters its final 14 days. 

And despite all the ups and downs, the bad hockey or bad bounces, that's all any team can ask for.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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