Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Fall 2-1 In Big Ten Tournament Semifinals To Wisconsin
How It Happened:
Penn State almost continued its cinderella story but a Wisconsin goal in the final seconds of the second period proved to be too much to overcome.
The Nittany Lions fell 2-1 to the Badgers in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
Penn State didn't show any signs of tired legs in the opening period despite being less than 24 hours removed from a double overtime victory against Michigan. Wisconsin had the majority of the best scoring chances in the first period but Penn State kept the Badgers honest with a few shots on goal. Matthew Skoff got the nod in net for the Nittany Lions again on Friday afternoon and turned aside 11 first period shots.
Neither team scored in the game's opening 20 minutes.
The second period was dramatic. Curtis Loik punched home a beautiful saucer pass to put Penn State ahead 1-0 only 55 seconds into the second period. Wisconsin answered right back with a scrum in front of Skoff that resulted in a Badger goal as Michael Mersch banged in a rebound only 32 seconds later.
The teams engaged in back-and-forth action with scoring chances for both sides. Wisconsin broke the tie with only 10 seconds remaining in the period while on the power play. Mersch was credited with the power play tally, his second score of the day. Penn State would kill off four Wisconsin man-advantages, allowing a goal on only the one power play.
The Nittany Lions rushed Wisconsin netminder Joel Rumpel throughout the third period but failed to score despite two power play chances in the game's final frame. Rumpel made 24 saves on the night while Skoff stopped 32 shots on net.
Mersch's goal in the final seconds of the second period gave Wisconsin all of the momentum heading into the game's final period and put Penn State behind the eight ball as the clock ticked down. Coming off of a game that lasted nearly 100 minutes, the Nittany Lions didn't quite have it in the tank in the game's final minutes on Friday.
Player of the Game:
Both goaltenders played exceptionally well in net but Michael Mersch's two goals proved to be the difference in a tightly contested game.
Stat of the Game:
Skoff finished his first Big Ten Tournament with 84 saves and allowed just three goals in 152 minutes and 39 seconds of work. His save percentage was 96.6 with a goals-against average of 1.18.