Penn State Hockey

Penn State men’s hockey: Nittany Lions drop Big Ten opener at Wisconsin

Wisconsin delivered its version of a proper welcome to Big Ten ice hockey to Penn State on Friday night.

The No. 17 Badgers scored two goals in the first four minutes, dominated in shots and pounced on the Nittany Lions’ mistakes for a 7-1 victory at the Kohl Center.

“It’s our first conference game we’ve ever played,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “You talk about identity — no, we’re not there yet. We know what we want to see. ... We see it for spurts, but we haven’t been able to see it for long stretches.”

Tommy Olczyk had the lone goal for the Nittany Lions (3-8-1, 0-1 Big Ten) while seven different Badgers found the net in racking up a 43-28 advantage in shots on goal.

Grant Besse and Frankie Simonelli started the scoring for Wisconsin (5-5-1, 1-2) in the first 3:54. Michael Mersch and Tyler Barnes netted second-period goals, and Nic Kerdiles, Kevin Schulze and Brad Navin all found the net in the third period.

“We did make big mistakes,” Gadowsky said. “Give them a lot of credit. They finished. They’re great finishers, they’re a great hockey team, and certainly the mistakes we made we can’t expect to get away with.”

It was the turnovers that really bothered Gadowsky, whose team seemed to regress after showing promising signs the previous two game weekends in losses to ranked teams UMass Lowell and Union.

“We have some pretty talented players make some pretty big mistakes that we haven’t seen,” Gadowsky said. “I’m going to chalk it up to nerves right now. But hopefully we’ve got this one behind us, and you have to get the first one out of the way before you can move on.”

The Nittany Lions did make improvements in a couple areas, drawing just four penalties for eight minutes and holding the Badgers to an 0-for-3 night on the power play. Penn State entered the weekend third in the nation in penalty minutes per game, averaging just under 19, and gave up three man-advantage goals last Sunday.

Matthew Skoff made 33 saves while surrendering five goals. P.J. Musico finished the final 7:23 in his first action of the season.

Ricky DeRosa and Nate Jensen assisted on Olczyk’s third goal of the season.

Joe Rumpel made 27 saves for Wisconsin, which dominated the first meeting between the teams last season. Penn State came back the next night to beat the Badgers in overtime for the marquee win of the season in their final game on the schedule.

The Nittany Lions will hope for a similar chance to bounce back at 9 p.m. Saturday to close the two-game series.