Lions Fall in Big Ten Semifinals to No. 6 Wisconsin, 2-1
March 21, 2014
SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The sixth-seeded Nittany Lion men's hockey team was unable to continue its Big Ten Tournament experience, falling to the third-seeded and sixth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers Friday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center. Matthew Skoff (McKees Rock, Pa.) made a bevy of incredible saves to keep the game tight and Curtis Loik (North Vancouver, B.C.) scored his seventh goal of the season to briefly put Penn State ahead.
Skoff finished his first Big Ten Tournament with 84 saves and allowed just three goals in 152 minutes and 39 seconds of work. His save percentage was a robust 96.6 with a goals-against average of 1.18.
Penn State's (8-26-2) first season in the Big Ten ended in the semifinals following Thursday's 2-1 double-overtime win over Michigan. Wisconsin advanced to play the winner of Minnesota and Ohio State.
For the second consecutive Big Ten Tournament game, the Nittany Lions skated to a scoreless opening 20 minutes with its opponent. Wisconsin had the best chance of the frame as a scramble to the right of Skoff saw the puck find its way to Wisconsin left-wing Nic Kerdiles, but his shot was saved by a sliding Skoff who made 11 stops in the frame. Including the past two games, Skoff saved 87 of 90 shots (96.7 percent).
The game's slow start reversed quickly in the first 90 seconds of the second period as put away a cross-ice pass from Kenny Brooks (Las Vegas, Nev.) 57 seconds into the frame. David Glen (Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.) set the play up in the neutral zone with a quick chip into the Wisconsin zone as Brooks set up Loik in front of the net.
Wisconsin responded quickly as Michael Mersch beat his cover to the crease and put away a feed from Jefferson Dahl with 18:33 remaining in the contest. The goal was Mersch's team-leading 21st of the season.
Penn State looked like it would take a 2-1 lead as Dylan Richard (Sherwood Park, Alta.) pounced on David Goodwin (Des Peres, Mo.) rebound next to Wisconsin Joel Rumpel. The Badger netminder made a sprawling save to keep the game knotted at one with 3:05 remaining in the second period.
The Badgers would take the lead with only 10.5 seconds remaining in the period as Tyler Barnes scored the first power-play goal of the Big Ten Tournament on a cross-crease pass from Mark Zengerle. Wisconsin's lead was the first time Penn State trailed in the Big Ten Tournament.
Penn State had a pair of penalties midway through the third period to even the score, but the Nittany Lions came up empty handed. The Badgers' Joseph LaBate dinged the pipe with 4:50 remaining as the Nittany Lions continued to press for the equalizer.
The Badgers held a 34-25 advantage in shot, out-shooting the Nittany Lions in each period (11-8, 13-8, 10-9). Wisconsin went 1-for-3 on the power play, while the Nittany Lions were 0-for-3. Faceoffs were even at 30 wins apiece. Glen went 8-5, while Eric Scheid (Blaine, Minn.) was 7-4.