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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Sweep Wisconsin With 5-2 Victory

by on February 11, 2017 11:20 PM

No. 10 Penn State hockey entered this weekend's series against Wisconsin needing positive results to keep Big Ten title hopes and a postseason dream within reach.

And they got them.

On Friday night the Nittany Lions answered any doubts with a 6-3 victory that broke a five-game winless streak and ignited a Penn State offense which had lost some of explosiveness during the slump.

And then on Saturday night it was more of the same as Penn State took the lead and never really looked back as the Nittany Lions went wire-to-wire en route to a crucial 5-2 victory and a road sweep over No. 17 Wisconsin.

After a few tentative opening minutes it was freshman Nate Sucese who found the back of the net, giving Penn State a 1-0 margin and a key lead on the road. The Nittany Lions managed 11 shots on goal in the opening period and out shot Wisconsin in all three frames to the tune of 44-29.

The Badgers tied the contest with just under 30 seconds to go in the period, Peyton Jones picked up his latest victory with 27 saves on the night. Jones is now 16-4-2 on the year.

The youth movement continued in the second period as Sucese found the net again 7:20 into the period, this time taking a pass from defenseman Vince Pedrie as Penn State went ahead 2-1. Minutes later Denis Smirnov buried his chance pushing the margin to two goals as Penn State looked poised and in control at the game's midway point.

Down 3-1 Wisconsin would pull within a score late in the period, taking advantage of a power play opportunity after a high sticking penalty on Zach Saar was called late in the frame.

So as Smirnov found the back of the net early in the third period for his second of the game it was a crucial moment in Penn State's season, the Nittany Lions up 4-2 and on the brink of earning a key three points in the Big Ten standings and another road victory over a ranked foe.

Wisconsin tried to respond but couldn't and as Trevor Hamilton put Penn State ahead 5-2 with under six minutes to go in regulation is finished the job, both on the ice, and beyond, killing any thoughts that the Nittany Lions were tumbling out of the postseason picture.

With that in mind, at 18-6-2 Penn State is No. 6 in the most recently updated PairWise rankings. In the Big Ten standings the Nittany Lions are third, five points behind Minnesota that split a series against Ohio State this weekend. Wisconsin is still two points ahead of the Nittany Lions despite the two losses. Penn State entered the weekend eight points or effectively 2.5 games back. 

With eight games to go in the regular season Penn State will a two game series against Minnesota before traveling on the road to Michigan State. The Nittany Lions will then return to close out the home season against Wisconsin before ending the regular season on the road at Michigan.

If nothing else there will be no lack of drama as Penn State heads into the final stretch.

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