Penn State vs. Wisconsin: Series Grades
Penn State entered its final regular season series knowing that with two victories it would clinch a home playoff series in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Nittany Lions knocked off Wisconsin 6-1 in game one, but when the two teams returned to the ice for the finale, it was the Badgers coming away with a 2-1 victory.
Before turning the attention to a road playoff series against Ohio State, let’s take a look at how each position group fared:
For a group that wanted a strong start to the weekend, that is exactly what it got. Just 14 seconds into the series opener Danny Dzhaniyev set the tone as he put the blue and white on the board.
That fast start continued as Ture Linden scored twice in the first period before Tyler Gratton, Connor McMenamin and defenseman Simon Mack finished off the six-goal performance in the middle period.
Game one was the first time that the Nittany Lions have scored more than four goals since Dec. 30 against RIT, but game two was a reminder of how the second half of the season went for Penn State.
Despite generating opportunity after opportunity in a 48-shot outburst, the blue and white forwards mustered up just one goal, which came by way of McMenamin just past the midway point of the second period.
The Nittany Lions seemingly controlled the entire game winning 42-of-66 faceoffs including 16-of-23 as they sought a comeback in the third period, but they just could not sneak anything by Kyle McClellan of the Badgers.
Up until three weeks ago, the Nittany Lions had only been outshot once this season but heading into the series against Wisconsin that phenomenon happened in three of the last four games.
While that does not fall solely on the defensive pairings of the blue and white, they had been shaky in front of a goaltender who was also having ups and downs.
Against the Badgers, however, the defensive unit for Penn State played two nearly perfect games.
The Badgers totaled 47 shots in the two-game series, fewer shots than the Nittany Lions took in game two alone. In addition to that, not too many of those 47 were high-quality opportunities as the defense did not struggle with time and space this time out.
With the defense sharp in front of him, Liam Souliere returned to being the netminder that led to much of the early-season success of the Nittany Lions.
The junior from Ontario, who was pulled in two games in the second half of the season including in Penn State’s prior series against Minnesota, stopped 44-of-47 shots that went his way.
Of those stops, two of them in game two were on breakaway opportunities for Wisconsin, but the netminder stepped up strong to give his team a chance to mount the comeback.
With those big stops and many more, on his resume, Souliere finished the regular season with a 17-12-1 record, 2.52 goals against average and a .910 save percentage.
It was not a lack of opportunities that plagued the Nittany Lions in game two, but rather a lack of success with those opportunities.
The Nittany Lions held a man advantage on five different occasions in the loss, and one night after going 1-for-2 on the power play they went 0-for-5.
Two of those man-up chances came in the way of five-minute major penalties, in which they generated eight shots and no goals.
On the flip side of things, the Badgers had success on their power play this weekend as the blue and white penalty killers could only stop Wisconsin on three-of-five occasions.
With the third-biggest crowd in Pegula Ice Arena history trying to propel the team back into that very arena for the postseason, the Nittany Lions just could not get the job done against the No. 7 team in the Big Ten.
For Guy Gadowsky and company, they’ll now turn their attention to repeating the road upset of a year ago in Columbus.
Justin Ciavolella is a second-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors