With a late goal to tie it, the Penn State men’s hockey team had visions of another upset.
Wisconsin’s Mark Zengerle spoiled the upset bid with 20.3 seconds left in overtime to give the Badgers a 3-2 win and a sweep of the weekend series Saturday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
After battling back to tie it, the heartbreak of a loss so late in the extra period was evident with the Nittany Lions.
“I’m not disappointed in our effort at all,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I’m disappointed in — man, 20 seconds left in overtime, that’s a tough one to swallow. But we’ll learn to win those.”
“We’ve gotten the confidence that we can compete with anybody,” said Casey Bailey, who scored Penn State’s first goal. “We really feel like we’re going to start winning these games. I feel like we’re in all these games with these No. 1, No. 5, all these top-10 teams, all these great teams in our conference. We’re disappointed we don’t get the win and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Keegan Meuer and Nic Kerdiles scored in regulation for Wisconsin (21-9-2, 12-5-1), while Joel Rumpel made 41 saves.
Kenny Brooks had the other Nittany Lion goal, forcing overtime with 2:44 left in regulation. Matthew Skoff made 26 saves in the loss on Military Appreciation Night, with Penn State wearing special blue-and-white camouflage jerseys.
“I thought overall we played a very good game as a team,” Brooks said. “That’s the frustrating part, that we lost, we did that. But it’s not necessarily a terrible thing. It’s taking steps forward. They’re a good team and we need to learn more, we need to be better at pulling out wins when we’re in close games.”
After a lackluster beginning in Friday’s loss, Penn State bounced back in a big way Saturday, with a 7-0 margin in shots on goal in the game’s first three minutes.
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves also noticed the difference in energy.
“Penn State had a bonfire going and we had a little camp fire,” Eaves said. “They came out and they just beat our fannies left and right, won races, bloodied us up. They clearly had done a better job of preparation.”
The Nittany Lions thought a shootout was on its way when the combination of Kerdiles and Zengerle worked its magic one last time. The duo had several breaks up the ice during the game, capped by the winning score on a 2-on-1 break.
“They have something special, in terms of chemistry,” Eaves said of the Badger duo.
Gadowsky had said after Friday’s loss he wanted to find an answer of how to stop the pair, who have a combined 11 points in the last five games.
“Not at the most important time, that’s for sure,” Gadowsky said. “They’re finishers and they finished.”
Brooks tied it with 2:44 left, firing the puck from the corner, banking it off Rumpel into the net.
“I don’t really remember,” Brooks said of his fourth goal of the season. “The only part I really remember is I came around the net, threw it to the net and it ended up going in.”
Penn State had just killed off a power play seconds earlier when the Badgers got on the board first — on their first shot on goal of the game — when Meuer beat Skoff with a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle.
The Nittany Lions responded just 1:06 later on a power play, when Glen got the puck next to the Badger net to draw over Rumpel and sent a perfect blind pass back to Bailey alone at the opposite faceoff dot with a wide open net.
“I was almost nervous to miss that one,” Baily said of his ninth goal of the season. “Definitely a lot of net to shoot at.”
Bailey celebrated with a military-like salute — which was planned by the whole team.
“First guy who scored should salute them,” Bailey said. “Usually I wouldn’t remember something like that, but it came to my head quickly after I scored, so it was nice to be the guy who gets to do that.”
With Penn State on a power play, Kerdiles put Wisconsin ahead when the puck bounced to him in front of the net and he flipped it between his legs top-shelf over Skoff.
It held up until Brooks tied it late, but the Nittany Lions could not celebrate at the end.
“We keep learning a lot,” Gadowsky said. “You have to learn to win games, and you have to learn to win games against good teams. This sort of feels like this one we worked really hard for 64 minutes and 40 seconds, and had nothing to show for it.”
Notes: The camo jerseys the Nittany Lions wore Saturday night will be auctioned off with proceeds supporting the Keystone Wounded Warriors. Some jerseys were auctioned during the game, while others can be bid upon online at gopsusports.com. … Penn State hosts Ohio State next weekend in the final home series of the season, with games at 7 p.m. Friday and at 3 p.m. Saturday. … The announced crowd was 5,829, with a full student section of the general public with Penn State on spring break. … Wisconsin’s win assured the team a bye in the Big Ten Tournament, and keeps hopes alive of winning the conference, trailing by five points in the standings with two games left.