The Penn State men’s hockey team needed a big win Friday night.
But some untimely turnovers left the No. 11 Nittany Lions at the wrong end of a 7-4 loss to No. 16 Wisconsin on Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
“We had a lot to do with some of the offense that they were able to generate,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said of the miscues.
Ryan Wagner scored a pair of third-period goals to lead the Badgers in the final home weekend of the season.
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Andrew Sturtz scored two goals and assisted on another for Penn State (20-9-2, 9-7-1 Big Ten), with one goal each for Nate Sucese and Dylan Richard. Peyton Jones made 25 saves in the loss, the fourth straight at home, with the final home game of the year on Saturday.
“Tonight was big; tomorrow’s bigger,” Gadowsky said. “We know it.”
Added Sturtz: “We have to put that one behind us. We have to show up to the rink tomorrow ready to go.”
Other Wisconsin goals came from Will Johnson, Seamus Malone, Jason Ford, Matt Ustaski and Grant Besse in the first game all season in which Penn State allowed seven goals. Jack Berry had 34 saves.
“We can make plays,” Badger coach Tony Granato said. “That’s something we’ve done all year. We were able to force some turnovers and able to make some plays off it.”
The Badgers were clinging to a one-goal lead most of the third period before Wagner scored both of his tallies, the first on a steal off a broken Penn State stick and the second with an empty net to lock up the win.
“They’re a good team over there,” Penn State defenseman Vince Pedrie said. “Obviously they’ve had a good year so far and they’re playing well right now.”
A Nittany Lion turnover led to the game’s opening goal, with Wagner swiping the puck and feeding it to Johnson next to the net. Sturtz tied it with a rebound tally. Penn State outshot Wisconsin 16-6 in the period and carried play most of the frame but couldn’t manage any more scoring.
“We had to be thankful we didn’t dig ourselves a bigger hole to get out,” Granato said. “They came out flying.”
Wisconsin controlled most of the second period with goals from Malone and Ford.
Penn State fought back late in the period, first when a long rebound popped out to Sucese for a howitzer blast. Just 58 seconds later Sturtz netted his second, finding the top shelf off a pretty feed from Alec Marsh.
“If a guy gets the puck in the slot like that, realistically that play was all Alec Marsh and Chase Berger on the forecheck,” Sturtz said. “Marsh made an unbelievable hockey play finding me with his back turned.”
The two goals gives Sturtz 21 on the season, making the sophomore the second Nittany Lion to surpass 20 in a season and leaves him one behind Casey Bailey’s team record.
But another turnover led to a 3-on-1 break for the Badgers and Ustaski’s goal to put the Badgers back in front with 11.7 seconds left in the second.
“Obviously that’s tough,” Sturtz said. “That really sinks your sails going into the third period.”
Wisconsin went up by two again on Besse’s rebound early in the third, but Richard answered 70 seconds later off Sturtz’s feed. The period then was bogged down with choppy play until Wagner put the game away at the end.
“The flow was brutal,” Gadowsky said. “It was just a terrible tempo game. Obviously that’s not how we like to things. ... For whatever reason we weren’t in the flow of the game.”
Notes: The teams tangle again at 8 p.m. Saturday, with Senior Night festivities beginning a little after 7:30 p.m. … The game will be shown on WJAC (NBC channel 6). … Sturtz now has 39 career goals, passing Eric Scheid for third on the career list for the team. David Goodwin has 41 and Bailey leads with 45. … With a hard hit from behind into the boards midway through the second, Penn State’s Brandon Biro got a 5-minute major and a game misconduct to get ejected. The Lions killed the power play, the only one they allowed all game.