Penn State’s struggles continue against Wisconsin

Image courtesy of http://www.uwbadgers.com/sports/m-hockey/

Game one versus the Badgers last Friday night was simple not a pretty game to watch.

The Nittany Lions were thoroughly outplayed in all facets of the game. The Badgers out shot Penn State by a 43-28 margin and the Lions went 0-for-3 on the powerplay, while Wisconsin finished 0-for-4 on the power play. Badger netminder Joel Rumpel turned aside 27 shots for the 7-1 victory.

Wisconsin opened the scoring  less than three minutes into the game, when Sean Little stripped the puck from Penn State and finished a two-on-one advantage with a slick pass to Grant Besse, who shot the puck past Matthew Skoff. Frankie Simonelli quickly struck again, beating Skoff from just inside the blue line a little over a minute later. The two goals came on Wisconsin’s first two shots of the game.

Tommy Olczyk would cut the Badger lead in half heading into the first intermission. Olczyk took a feed from Ricky DeRosa behind the net and fired a one-timer past Rumpel. If you’re Penn State, you had to have felt good about the first period effort. However, that would quickly dissipate in the second and third periods as the Badgers scored five unanswered goals from five different players to put Penn State away for good.

Wisconsin’s fourth goal, scored by Tyler Barnes, was just thing of beauty.

His goal was on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” as well as on Fox Sports 1.

To be honest, Penn State didn’t have a prayer in this game. It was the first time the Badgers were on home ice in 33 days. They were coming off a series in which they were outplayed by No.1 Minnesota and were looking to get back into the win column. I knew they would struggle against the Badgers, but I didn’t think they would surrender seven goals.

In game two, I thought Penn State played much better despite losing  4-3.  Both freshmen Ricky DeRosa and Zach Saar collected their first multi-point games of their collegiate careers. They each recorded a goal and assist. Redshirt sophomore Eric Scheid scored his team-leading seventh goal on a  first-period power play. Luka Juha tallied his seventh power-play point of the season with a first-period assist, and sophomore goalie Matt Skoff got the call in net again and turned aside 27 shots.

In a game that saw a pair of lead changes, Penn State got off to a fast start for once by converting on a 5-on-3 power play just five minutes into the game. Eric Scheid beat Joe Rumpel off a backdoor feed to give PSU an early 1-0 edge.

However, the Badgers would respond with two-straight goals to take the lead. The first came from Sean Little who squeezed a shot past Skoll from the high slot off a pass from Jefferson Dahl.

Michael Mersch (LA, 110th overall, 11) would tally his eighth goal of the season six minutes into the second period on the powerplay to give Wisconsin a 2-1 lead.

DeRosa evened the game at 2-2 with 7:51 left in the second period. Zach Saar skated into the Badger zone and his initial shot was stopped by Rumpel, but DeRosa crashed the cage and batted the puck out of mid-air into the net.

Wisconsin re-gained its one-goal lead seven minutes into the third period. After Sean Little  forced a Penn State turnover below the goal line, Joe Faust (NJ, 110th overall, ’10) corralled Keegan Meuer’s pass and blasted a shot from the right circle past Skoff.

The Badger lead  didn’t last for long, though, as Saar scored 42 seconds later to tie the game.

Nic Kerdiles (ANA, 36th overall, ’12) netted the game-winner with 8:08 to play when the Badgers forced a PSU turnover and the puck ultimately would up on the stick of Kerdiles, who showed why he’s one of the top players in the country. Kerdiles faked a shot and went top shelf on Skoff to seal the victory.

The Nittany Lions dropped to  3-9-1 overall (0-2-0-0 Big Ten), while Wisconsin improved to 6-5-1 (2-2-0-0 Big Ten).

Overall, a much better effort from Penn State in game two. They still need to find a way to win a close game like that against a conference rival,  but as a whole, I was pleased to see them fight a come back twice from a goal down. They played a much more consistent game, but ultimately the wrong guy had the puck on his stick at the wrong time.

The line of DeRosa-Olczyk-Saar was stellar this past weekend registering three goals and four assists in two games played. The chemistry between DeRosa and Olczyk is fun to watch and just maybe Gadowsky has found a place for Saar, who has had problems with being consistent this year.

Penn State needs to build on this weekend. They won’t play again until Dec 27th when they play Robert Morris at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh as part of the Three Rivers Classic. They should beat RMU and then play the winner of Bowling Green/Boston College the following day.

After that, PSU doesn’t play again until Jan 12th/13th when they welcome No. 1 Minnesota to Happy Valley. They need to take this time off to get healthy and go over what they need to do better.

Normally, I don’t like when a team has off for an extended period of time, but Penn State’s finals are next week and then it’s time off for the holidays. I expect to see a fully charged and ready to go hockey team when they hit the ice in Pittsburgh in three weeks time.