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Folkes Lifts Penn State Past Wisconsin

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State hockey fans, Saturday night seemed like an awfully familiar ending. Meeting Wisconsin for the first time since last year's historic Big Ten Championship victory, the Nittany Lions once again came through with the win.

Much like the last time out though, it was sophomore forward Liam Folkes who secured the outcome.

Under different circumstances of course, for Folkes there wasn't much to it and for Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky, it's easy - he's just a clutch kid.

Before even arriving at the shootout, Penn State had to weather its share of adversity. From playing without its top defenseman to a game-winning overtime goal that would eventually be called off, the feeling of familiarity extended further than Folkes in the final minutes of the night.

"I think that locker room prides itself on being a mentally tough team and I think they showed it," Gadowsky said. "That's a tough thing to do. We had to regroup a few times and obviously thinking that the game was over, or overtime was over, with three-and-a-half minutes to go, having to come back and play hard - I do, I give them a lot of credit."

Penn State encountered its first challenge of the night after senior defenseman Trevor Hamilton was sent off for a five-minute major and a game misconduct fewer than 20 seconds in.

Despite the less than ideal start, the Nittany Lions fought off the Wisconsin power play, quickly answering with none other than Folkes, who slipped the puck past Wisconsin's Kyle Hayton on the Penn State power play for his seventh goal of the season.

It was Gadowsky who did not leave the podium postgame without giving credit to Penn State's five defensemen who stepped up in Hamilton's absence.

"All five of them especially, that's a big effort, especially so early," Gadowsky said. "It's not like they just did it for a period, basically it was 59-and-a-half minutes. Huge effort. All of them were put in positions that they aren't normally used too. All played with new people. I think you have to give them a lot of credit."

Although the Badgers answered to tie the score, freshman forward Sam Sternschein netted the go-ahead, as the puck pinged the crossbar before going in to give Penn State the advantage.

Less than a minute into the third period, junior forward Andrew Sturtz slid the puck past Hayton just far enough for junior forward Chase Berger to finish it off to give the Nittany Lions the 3-1 lead.

Penn State maintained composure as the Badgers cut it to one with 16:17 left in regulation, but found itself headed to overtime after Wisconsin placed the equalizer past the shoulder of sophomore goalie Peyton Jones with 1:52 remaining in the third period.

The Nittany Lions came just short of ending it in overtime as Penn State's game-winner was waved off, forcing the shootout with the 3-3 tie going in the books to extend a now 10-game unbeaten streak.

It was Folkes of course who was called upon to secure the extra point. Gadowsky of course, noted postgame that the memory of last year's ending against the Badgers was on his mind.

"There's a couple of reasons, but that's one of them," Gadowsky said with a smile. "The biggest reason is he's clutch. It wasn't just Wisconsin, he would have gone no matter who we were playing, but that's part of it."

For Folkes though, recreating his heroics wasn't top of mind as he took to the ice.

"I wanted to shoot it but then I went down, faked the shot and he never bit," Folkes said. "Then obviously, I went around him and it worked out."

Seated alongside Folkes in the postgame media room was Sturtz, who found no reason for lasting disappointment in the disallowed overtime goal. 

"It's obviously tough, but good teams find a way to win and that's what we did here tonight," Sturtz said. "I think we're making a lot of strides in becoming a good team and I think it's happening at the right time."

For Gadowsky, it was Penn State's ability to navigate the challenges that has him taking the most from week one back from a nearly month-long break.

"I think it was a really gutsy tie," Gadowsky said. "Obviously they came back, so it could have been a win but I'm happy with the point, especially how it started."

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