Hockey Game Grades: Penn State vs. Wisconsin

Story posted March 6, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack Milewski

The Penn State Nittany Lions failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity to gain ground on the Michigan Wolverines as they split their road series against the Wisconsin Badgers. After a shaky win in game one, Penn State came out flat in game two and a furious rally couldn’t save the Nittany Lions from a one goal deficit. Here are this weekends game grades:

Offense: B-

Penn State only scored two goals in game one and really didn’t have many grade A opportunities. If you take out the third period of game two, this would have been an abysmal series for one of the best offensive teams in the nation. Penn State showed some fire and potted two goals in their third period rally, but at that point it was too little too late. The bright spot was Andrew Sturtz, who scored a goal in each game and added to Penn State’s national lead with the team’s 12th shorthanded goal of the season. We have seen better from Penn State offensively and they need to be better down the stretch.

Defense: D

Some may say this grade is harsh, but I would venture to guess that many people may agree. Look at the box score from game one and you see a team that gave up only one goal, watch the game and you saw a team who could have given up six. Penn State was all over their own defensive zone, scrambling and coughing the puck up left and right. If it weren’t for some amazing showings of offensive futility and spurts of acrobatics from Eamon McAdam, Penn State probably would have come out of Kohl Center with two losses instead of one. The defense was actually better in game two, but Wisconsin capitalized and were more efficient on offense. That’s not to say they were fantastic on Saturday, but it just goes to show how the box score rarely indicates the true story.

Goaltending: C

Fantastic on Friday, not so good on Saturday. That’s how McAdam played this weekend. Yes it actually was McAdam the whole time and not Skoff one night and McAdam the next. Friday he looked really good and was quite obviously the reason Penn State won the game. Outside of his attempt to hand Wisconsin a goal in the second period, McAdam was stout in net and turned away a badger flurry at the end of the game to keep Penn State up one goal. In game two he took a step back, or maybe two and that may quite honestly come from not being accustomed to playing two games in a row. Four goals on 13 shots is not what Penn State fans have grown accustomed to seeing with McAdam. In fact, I’m not sure if that has ever happened with the Penn State junior. Either way, it was certainly a tale of two nights for the man between the pipes.

Special Teams: A

One bright spot for the Nittany Lions this week were the special teams. One of the better teams in the nation both a man up and a man down showed why. Penn State went 2-5 on the powerplay, 7-8 on the penalty kill and also managed to net a short handed goal in game two. They certainly outperformed the badgers in this regard and the special teams battle was a big reason why Penn State won game one and then had a shot to win game two. The Nittany Lions took seven penalties and only let one bite them. You can take that with a grain of salt however as sitting in the box for 14 minutes isn’t going to get the job done most nights and it didn’t. Still, all in all a great special teams weekend.

Coaching: C

So this is where it gets interesting. We saw this same thing happen to Penn State last season. Hot out of the gate, slow down the stretch, brick wall towards the end of the season. Maybe they haven’t hit a brick wall, but the runaway train that was Nittany Lions hockey is certainly slowing down. They have now split their last four series (if you count a shootout victory a split, which against Michigan State I kind of do) and seem to be treading water right now. You obviously can’t put the blame on Guy Gadowsky, well not all of it, but it is very interesting to see the team do the exact same thing as they did last year. For whatever reason they cant seem to string together back to back good games and at some point you have to start looking at the coaches a bit.

Jack Milewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email jbm250@psu.edu