Big Ten Semifinal: Wisconsin Advances, Ends Penn State’s Season
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Another season comes to a close, as No. 1 seed Wisconsin topped Penn State in overtime 4-3 to advance to the Big Ten Championship. The Badgers got quite the production from their starpower, including two goals from stud forward Cole Caufield.
It was a rather methodical start in the first period for both teams. Over seven minutes into the first frame, neither team had a quality look on goal. It seemed as if both teams were feeling each other out.
The first man-advantage opportunity of the game went to Wisconsin. The dangerous five forward power play unit was stood up by a strong Nittany Lions penalty kill. In fact, Penn State had a pair of shorthanded chances but never challenged Wisconsin goalie Robbie Beydoun.
Not long after, it was an unsuccessful power play once again from Wisconsin. Jimmy Dowd took an interference penalty. The dangerous Caufield ripped a shot from the top of the circle that hit the post so powerfully that the rebound bounced outside the zone. Autio, with a pair of shoulder saves, kept the game level.
Finally, the Badgers broke the ice. Red Wings draft pick Sam Stange made Penn State pay for a defensive breakdown to give Wisconsin the 1-0 lead with just 55 seconds to go in the first. It was the freshman’s sixth goal this season.
The second period started with a dangerous Nittany Lions forecheck; Penn State tallied the first seven shots of the second frame. Beydoun not only made the saves but he also swallowed the puck well to limit any rebounds.
Wisconsin thought it had the multiple-goal advantage as Jack Gorniak scored from a real tough angle, but it was immediately waved off for goaltender interference. Tyler Gratton pushed Wisconsin’s Owen Lindmark into Autio but the officials rather controversially ruled that it still was goaltender interference. The 1-0 score opened the door for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions capitalized. A puck from the point deflected off Penn State’s Alex Limoges for his 10th goal of the season. At the time, the equalizer proved to be massive.
Penn State went to the locker room for the second intermission with 28 shots on goal, outshooting the Badgers 15-7 in the second frame.
The third period and overtime were chaos. To put it bluntly, it was everything playoff hockey is known to be.
The Nittany Lions grabbed their first lead of the evening when Tim Doherty pounced on a loose puck in the slot and fired it home to make it 2-1.
On the goal, the officials reviewed a high check to the head put on by Wisconsin’s Dylan Holloway. Following the review, they determined Holloway’s day was done and that Penn State would be awarded a five-minute power play.
The momentum swing was massive but Penn State couldn’t capitalize. Wisconsin used the strong penalty kill to propel itself to success.
Right off the draw, Ty Emberson snapped a shot that beat Autio up high. We were tied.
Moments later, Tim Doherty had other ideas. Doherty slid a backhander through the five hole of Beydoun to get Penn State the lead back.
With three minutes to go, it looked as if Penn State was playing well enough to win—that’s when it took a costly roughing penalty, sending the Badgers to the power play.
From then on, it was the Cole Caufield snipe show. There was nothing scouts, fans or commentators could do but watch. On the power play, Caufield ripped a bullet off the post and in to knot up the score with just three minutes remaining.
Then in the overtime frame, head coach Granato was double shifting the superstar to try and end it. Sure enough, Caufield came off the bench and sneaked it by Autio to win it for the Badgers.
As the Badgers celebrate the victory, they know they aren't done yet. They will see the winner of Minnesota and Michigan in the Big Ten championship game.
As for the Nittany Lions, their season is over. Limoges’ career is likely over at Penn State as well. The Nittany Lions started this season 0-5, battled back hard, got slammed with COVID-19, and still took top-seeded Wisconsin to the brink.
Penn State wasn’t the last place team everyone picked it to be. Wasn’t even close. They defied all odds and had a solid season despite the ending not going their way. Considering the youth of this squad, that’s nothing shy of impressive, and with the talent the Nittany Lions will be bringing back next season, it very well could mean another year of pushing for the Big Ten crown.
Kyle Cannillo is a journalism major at Penn State. To contact him, email email@example.com.