Nittany Lions Take Game 1 from Wisconsin, 6-1
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The No. 12 Penn State men’s hockey team beat No. 7 Wisconsin, 6-1, on Thursday night, in the first game of a two-game series that opened conference play for both the Badgers and Nittany Lions.
Penn State got on the board first, as junior forward Sam Sternschein fired a shot past Wisconsin goalie Daniel Lebedeff just 47 seconds into the game. The Nittany Lions added onto their lead nearly 15 minutes later, when Chicago Blackhawks prospect Evan Barratt scored on the power play. Wisconsin was able to cut Penn State’s lead in half with a power-play goal from leading scorer Cole Caufield just five seconds before the first period ended.
In the second period, Penn State once again scored early, as junior defenseman Alex Stevens put home his second career goal 63 seconds into the frame. Penn State built their lead to 4-1 with another power-play goal, this time from top line winger Denis Smirnov. The Nittany Lions ended up with five power-play goals, and Badgers coach Tony Granato attributed that to Penn State’s style of play with a man advantage.
“[The Nittany Lions] are very aggressive on special teams, and they make sure to shoot a lot,” Granato said. “They know how to be productive on their power plays.”
In the third period of a chippy game that had already produced thirteen minor penalties, including many for “roughing after the whistle,” an illegal hit from Wisconsin’s Roman Ahcan sparked several scrums and caused an injury to Smirnov. At the 14:17 mark of the period, Ahcan and Smirnov collided in the corner, and Ahcan was given a five-minute penalty for interference, a two-minute penalty for roughing after the whistle and a 10-minute game misconduct. Nittany Lions Kris Myllari and Mason Snell also earned penalties for roughing after the whistle, as did Badger Sean Dhooghe. Smirnov did not return to the game, and on the ensuing power play, Nate Sucese and Aarne Talvitie scored for Penn State to put the game away.
When asked after the game about the health of Smirnov, Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky declined comment, except for saying that he didn’t know the severity of Smirnov’s injury yet.
In his postgame press conference, Penn State captain and right wing Brandon Biro insisted that puck discipline was Penn State’s key to victory.
“We were really responsible with the puck tonight,” Biro said. “Even when things got out of hand with penalties, and it would have been easy for us to take our foot off the gas, we didn’t. It was only 4-1 at [the time of Ahcan’s hit on Smirnov] and the game wasn’t over. We did a good job staying focused.”
When asked about specific saves he made, Penn State goalie Peyton Jones attributed his success to his teammates, specifically the defense.
“They make great plays in front of me,” Jones said. “When I see them go all out, I just really want to make a big save, and thanks to them, I was able to do that tonight.”
Jeremy Schooler is a junior studying broadcast journalism and business. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.