STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It was too little, too late for Penn State as No. 5 Wisconsin held on for a 4-2 win Friday night over the Nittany Lions in their first trip to the Pegula Ice Arena.
The heavy artillery proved to be deadly as the team’s leading point scorers, Mark Zengerle and Nic Kerdiles, each registered a goal and three assists apiece.
Hope of a comeback was restored when Taylor Holstrom redirected a shot from Dylan Richard with 59 seconds to go in the third period. Holstrom’s sixth goal of the season put the Nittany Lions within one.
However, the Badgers withstood the extra attacker.
With six seconds remaining, Zengerle sealed it with an empty-netter. The goal was his eighth goal of the season.
The scoreboard was in the Badgers’ favor for the entirety of the game, even though it may not have looked that way to the naked eye.
“I thought that Penn State did a good job of ‘Hey, this game isn’t over,’” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “There was no quit.”
Eaves said he expected Penn State to play that way, having spent a lot of time watching the Nittany Lions on film.
It didn’t help that Penn State started off slowl,y having given up two goals while getting outshot by a 16-8 margin. Wisconsin dominated the first period, a fact that Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said was more disappointing than his team’s resilience.
Gadowsky added that he felt several steps behind rather than one.
Holstrom said Penn State’s slow start was unexplainable while adding that PSU seemed to just be watching the first period go by.
The Lions had plenty of chances after the slow start, coming out more confident in the second period. Those chances just never turned into goals while Wisconsin was converting on their own chances.
The Badgers’ first goal came on the power play when Michael Mersch scored his 20th goal of the season off a rebound left by Penn State goalie P.J. Musico at 4:41 of the first period.
From the slot, Tyler Barnes zipped a wrist shot that lit the lamp at 14:47 for his 11th of the year and a two-goal Badger lead.
Wisconsin tallied its third goal when Kerdiles one-timed a shot from the slot after receiving a pass from Zengerle.
The Nittany Lions were still getting chances with several odd man rushes, but they simply didn’t materialize.
Badgers’ goalie Joel Rumpel made two huge saves on separate breakaways and stopped all nine shots thrown his way in the second period.
Rumpel’s bid for a shutout was gone when Casey Bailey ripped a shot over the junior’s shoulder and into the net at 12:04 of the third period. It was Bailey’s eighth of the season.
Still, Rumpel made 24 saves, which proved to be key to the victory.
“We’ve certainly gotten used to [that kind of performance]” Eaves said.