There were no dramatic comebacks necessary Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
In front of an arena draped in white, the Penn State men’s hockey team put together three solid periods — taking the lead in the second — and put away Wisconsin 5-2.
Casey Bailey had a goal and two assists while Tommy Olczyk, Eric Scheid, David Goodwin and Taylor Holstrom also scored as the Nittany Lions (15-7-4, 6-2-1 Big Ten) moved back into second place alone in the conference. They extended their unbeaten streak to seven straight, tied with Robert Morris for the longest in the nation.
Cameron Hughes scored twice for the struggling Badgers (2-17-4, 0-7-2-2), who have not won in regulation since Jan. 3.
The teams tangle again at 2 p.m. Saturday to complete the weekend series.
P.J. Musico had a stellar start, making 35 saves to improve to 3-1-1 on the season.
“It was a good game and we battled back somehow,” said Musico, who made his second start of the season and first at home since falling to Ohio State on March 14, 2014. “It was fun.”
Joel Rumpel made 32 saves for Wisconsin.
After being forced to make comebacks a number of times in the month of January thanks to poor showings in the second period, especially in Friday night games, Penn State played much better this time. Coach Guy Gadowsky still didn’t think it was their best second period, but his team managed to grab the lead.
“It was a little more consistent,” Gadowsky said. “I don’t think it was our best two periods, but it wasn’t horrendous.”
Down 2-1 to start the second, Scheid tied it with his 13th goal of the season 1:26 into the period, taking a feed from down low from Scott Conway and beating Rumpel between his pads.
Goodwin put Penn State in the lead with 5:01 left in the second, diving to poke in a puck fluttering in front of the crease after a Badger had checked Holstrom into Rumpel to take the goalie out of the play.
“The difference in our game were the breakdowns in our own zone,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “Coming into our zone, and defensive zone coverage. We gave up three goals on that, and to me that was the difference in the game.”
Meanwhile, Musico was at the other end making a number of tough stops.
“I don’t think that was our best period, I thought that actually was P.J.’s best period,” Gadowsky said. “I thought he had to come up big.”
Midway through the third, Bailey netted his 19th goal of the year with a supersonic blast from the slot, a one-timer from Dylan Richard’s feed from the corner.
Holstrom sealed the win, tapping the puck into an empty net with nine seconds left. It gave six points on the night to the team’s top-scoring line of Bailey, Holstrom and Goodwin to give them 32, 26 and 24 points, respectively. No one had more than 20 points all last season.
“I really liked how they got things going with David’s goal,” Gadowsky said. “All three of them were buzzing around the net and had shots.”
Olczyk opened the scoring 5:54 into the game, knocking a rebound into a wide open net for his sixth goal of the year after Rumpel had stopped a shot from the circle by Connor Varley.
“I was just trying to get it to the net,” said Varley, who had two assists for his first two-point night since Oct. 18. “I knew Tom was driving to the net so I figured, it was kind of a bad-angle shot from over near the boards, I figured get it to the net, hopefully good things happen.”
The Badgers grabbed the lead thanks to Hughes, who left later with “an upper body injury,” according to Eaves, adding his status is unknown for Saturday. The freshman beat Musico with a wrist shot from the circle midway through the first, then struck again with 3:01 left in the first, skating across the front of the crease and firing the puck over the glove of a diving Musico.
The goalie did have an amusing moment in the second period. With the puck behind the net the senior tripped on the net while also trying to avoid a teammate, falling on his backside. The puck came back to Musico, and banking the puck off the boards behind the net he came close to firing the puck into the goal.
“I was just trying to keep it exciting,” he joked. “… I kind of forgot where I was and tripped over the back of the net there. It happens, I guess you could say. I thought I made it look graceful.”
Notes: Before the game former Nittany Lion John Dufford, who passed away last week at age 93, was remembered. Dufford was a member of the Penn State varsity hockey, soccer and baseball teams in the late 1930s and early 40s before serving in World War II and Korea. … The announced attendance for the whiteout game was 6,033. … The teams matched shot counts at 37-37. … Penn State has won all three meetings between the teams this season. … Conway had a pair of assists and Max Gardiner, Nate Jensen and Holstrom also helped on scores. … Holstrom now has a team-high 20 assists on the season. … Kenny Brooks returned to the lineup but re-injured his mid-section in the second period and did not complete the game.