Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Force Game Three, Beat Wisconsin 6-2
Penn State's season was extended for at least one more day as the Nittany Lions rolled past Wisconsin 6-2 to force a decisive Game 3 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
After giving up an early tally, Penn State turned a 1-1 first intermission tie into a 5-1 second intermission lead behind a torrent of shots paired with tenacious defense that gave the Badgers little room to respond.
Alex Limoges was brilliant yet again, adding two more goals to his season total and an assist to go with it. The freshman sits at 46 points, one shy of the program's single-season record and a goal shy of tying Casey Bailey's single-season goal record as well.
Peyton Jones bounced back from a bad opening goal to make 24 saves while Evan Bell, Liam Folkes and Nate Sucese joined Limoges on the scoresheet.
For Penn State there is little time to enjoy the win, or in the very least little time to rest. The Nittany Lions have put together impressive performances before, only to follow them up with otherwise underwhelming results the following night. Having struggled on Friday evening and played well on Saturday, a Sunday night showdown is a final exam.
The question has never been if Penn State is good, simply which version of the team will show up. Can the Nittany Lions put together back-to-back performances? The season will depend on it.
The good version of the Nittany Lions and Penn State will likely move on. The bad, one full of turnovers and mental errors, and Wisconsin will avoid the reverse sweep, traveling to Columbus for a semifinals meeting against Ohio State.
So it's time for a test, one an entire season in the making. It's an exam Penn State has failed more than it might care to admit. There will be no hiding now from the lessons -allegedly- learned.
"We're going to take this exam together," Coach Guy Gadowsky said after the game. "We're going to trust the studying that we've done throughout the semester. We're not going to cram."
In the big picture the season is on the line, but in the moment it is what makes the sport so much fun. Yet another game against two teams that have no love lost. In the previous versions of the Big Ten Tournament, single-elimination left not time for emotions to run high, and Sunday will mark the first Game 3 in the new iteration of the first round.
There has been plenty of time for things to simmer and cook, it's the third game in three days against the same two teams. There have been hits, punches, finger pointing, suspensions and words unrepeatable. Tempers will flare, emotions will run, maybe it's only the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, but Game 7 is Game 7.
Or in this case, Game 3.
"Every hockey player, no matter where you grow up, you watch [elimination games]," Gadowsky said. "You see a Game 7, it's a really big part of you just loving the game. It really is fun to be a part of. It is a bit of a different feel. I don't know if you deal with it...But I can tell you it's just fun."
"It gets chippy," captain Chase Berger said. "I think that's what's fun about the playoffs. I don't think they like us very much. I don't think we like them very much, to be honest. It seems like there's some bad blood, so it should be a good game."
See you Sunday night.