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Penn State Hockey: No. 12 Nittany Lions Sweep No. 7 Wisconsin With 4-2 Win

by on November 01, 2019 9:20 PM

The question was never if Penn State hockey could beat Wisconsin, the question was if it could beat the Badgers on back-to-back nights playing how it wanted to.

The answer was yes, and on Friday night the No. 12 Nittany Lions beat the No. 7 ranked Badgers 4-2 to open Big Ten play with a series sweep following a 6-1 victory on Thursday night.

Wisconsin would score first some 10:07 into regulation but the Nittany Lions otherwise controlled play despite trailing at the break. Brandon Biro tied the contest 5:34 into the second period redirecting a slap-pass from Nikita Pavlychev into the Wisconsin net and Alex Limoges took a bouncing puck and slammed it into a wide open goal to give Penn State a 2-1 lead midway through the frame.

It was a Badger tally by Wyatt Kalynuk late in the period that tied things at 2-2 following 40 minutes of play.

Much of third period was tentative, neither team looking to make a mistake or take a costly penalty, all the while both goalies made a combined 55 saves by the game's end.

But then Wisconsin found itself on the wrong end of an offensive rush, and Penn State forward Sam Sternschein ripped a puck high and past Wisconsin goalie Daniel Lebedeff to give Penn State a 3-2 lead with just under nine minutes to go in the game.

“Even though we won our first few games, we saw what happened when we didn’t play our hockey,” Sternschein said. “Even when we were winning, it didn’t really feel like we were winning, and this weekend it really felt like we played our game, and if we keep it up, we can beat anyone.” 

Nate Sucese's long empty-net shot from the defensive zone finished off the night and gave Penn State its 4-2 final with just under two minutes to go in regulation.

The Nittany Lions' win was impressive in its own right, back-to-back victories over a talented Wisconsin team that boasts two Top 15 NHL Draft choices and Big Ten Title aspirations of its own. However what was most impressive was the method in which Penn State went about its business on Thursday and Friday night.

Often plagued by inconsistencies and defensive lapses, the Nittany Lions were solid on both ends of the ice, back by Peyton Jones in goal, who continues to have an outstanding to start to the 2019 season, and led offensively by a host of talented forwards.

In total Penn State came out of the series having won the penalty battle, the shot total, power play goal total and a more consistent performance on defense end, giving up just three goals over the course of two games.

"Through six periods, that was probably one of our best performances," coach Guy Gadowsky said following the game. "Obviously you know that consistency is something that has been a challenge for us, and it will continue to be, by no means have we arrived, but it's really nice to see."

The result moves Penn State to 6-1-0 on the year and 2-0 in the Big Ten. In the immediate future the Nittany Lions will host Michigan State next weekend to continue the opening phases of conference play.

In the broader sense this was the Penn State teams fans -and to some extent Penn State itself- expected to see. Offensively talented, vastly improved both in goal and on defense in general, and doing both those things at once.

There will be good nights and bad nights, but if the Nittany Lions play most of the year like they did on Thursday and Friday, there will be few teams that beat them.

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