Penn State earned their first conference series sweep in dominant fashion over the weekend to jump to first place in the Big Ten, beating the one-win Wisconsin Badgers by a combined score of 9-4 over the course of two games.
Friday, Penn State (9-4-2, 3-1-0 Big Ten) earned its first win over the Badgers (1-10-1, 0-2-0 Big Ten) since Feb. 25, 2013 with a 5-2 victory as five different Nittany Lions tallied goals and then Saturday, Penn State secured their third series sweep of the year with a 4-2 win.
Friday: 5-2 win vs. Wisconsin
Penn State's scoring came from some old and new faces in their 5-2 win Friday, with freshman James Robinson scoring his first collegiate goal in the victory. In their returns to the ice, David Glen and Dylan Richard put up one goal each and David Goodwin totaled a career high in points per game with four in the match.
Glen got the scoring started for Penn State on the power play at 11:20 of the opening period. Casey Bailey extended his point streak to six games assisting on the tally as his point shot found Glen with bodies in front and the junior went top shelf on Wisconsin netminder Joel Rumpel for his third goal of the year.
A breakaway for Robinson gave the freshman his first goal of his Penn State career three minutes later, as the freshman picked up a loose puck off a Wisconsin attack and went in unimpeded to wrist it past Rumpel to give the Nittany Lions a 2-0 lead.
Morgan Zulinick tacked on a late goal for the Badgers with two minutes to play in the first off a point shot deflection in front of Penn State starting goaltender Eamon McAdam for the 2-1 score.
After a Nittany Lion-dominated 15 minutes, Richard gave Penn State the two-goal margin back with 3:03 to play in the second period. Goodwin stopped a Badger zone clear by the boards and took a chance shot on net that Richard picked up and scored high on Rumpel to give Penn State the 3-1 lead.
Badger Cameron Hughes committed a five-minute major checking-from-behind penalty on Tommy Olczyk and received a game misconduct for the play to start the third period, giving the Nittany Lions a chance to extend their lead. On the power play, Penn State capitalized on the mistake with 2:31 gone in the frame as Bailey notched his 10th tally of the season on a low wrister from between the circles at the blue line that Rumpel couldn't stop five-hole with traffic in front.
Wisconsin doubled their score with a power play goal of their own at 8:25 of the final frame on Tim Davison's second of the year. However, Goodwin extinguished any hope for the Badgers with an empty net goal with 41 seconds left to give the Nittany Lions the 5-2 win.
McAdam picked up his third win of the year in net and the sophomore saved 22 Wisconsin shots in his fourth start in net this season.
Penn State outshot the Badgers 40-24, 14-6 in the first period alone, and went 2-for-5 of the power play in the game while holding Wisconsin to 1-for-2.
Saturday: 4-2 win vs. Wisconsin
Despite going down a goal to the Badgers early in the second, the Nittany Lions rebounded to score four straight to complete the sweep in their 4-2 win Saturday.
After a scoreless first period, Wisconsin got the jump on Penn State with 2:32 gone in the second as Kevin Schulze put in his first of the year past Penn State starting netminder Matt Skoff for the 1-0 Badger lead.
Robinson got his second goal in as many games two minutes later after a bouncing pass from Glen made its way to the freshman and he stashed it home to tie the game at 1-1.
On the power play less than a minute later, Max Gardiner tacked on his third of the season from Richard and Curtis Loik to give the Nittany Lions the 2-1 lead with only 5:36 gone in the second. The two goals were scored 58 seconds apart.
Former captain Olczyk tacked on a shorthanded goal with 7:06 to go in the period that defenseman Erik Autio picked off of a Badger player to spring the two on a rush that the senior finished to put Penn State up 3-1.
Penn State's final goal of the match came from Ricky DeRosa after freshman Scott Conway picked up a Badger turnover in their own zone and could not stuff it home past Rumpel from the doorstep, but the puck came to DeRosa and he fired it past the Wisconsin netminder for the 4-1 score with 12:07 to play in the game.
Skoff allowed one more Badger goal with 5:14 to play in the contest on Zulinick's second tally of the weekend, but again Penn State stifled any signs of hope for Wisconsin and held onto the 4-2 victory.
In net, Skoff picked up his sixth win of the year for the Nittany Lions, saving 23 Wisconsin shots.
Penn State outshot the Badgers 33-25 over the 60 minute match and made their one power play opportunity count, while holding Wisconsin to 0-for-4 in the game.
With nine points, Penn State is now the sole leader of first place in the Big Ten, having gone 3-1 in the conference so far. Heading into their first big break of the season, there's a lot of things going right for the Nittany Lions right now. Over the weekend, another of Penn State's freshmen class had a breakout series. Last month it was Scott Conway, this weekend it was James Robinson.
Robinson had two goals in two games over the weekend, including his first career marker of his college hockey career, and tallied the first in his 11th game of the season with the team.
"He'll block shots with his chest. He'll backcheck when his lungs are burning," head coach Guy Gadowsky said of the freshman. "He's tough to play against. He goes hard to the net. He just does a lot of things that make him very difficult to play against."
With a three week break ahead for the Nittany Lions, there's a chance the team could lose their positive momentum they've built from the Wisconsin sweep. It's not likely, but it's the only pressing issue that has come out of their impressive weekend.
There's a lot to be positive about for Penn State, but the season's not half over just yet so there's still a lot of work to do.
Weekend Standout Players
After the team's three week break, Penn State will return to Pittsburgh to play in the Three Rivers Classic Dec. 29 against Robert Morris and Dec. 30 versus either Colgate or Western Michigan.
The Penn State women's team (8-7-3, 3-4-1 CHA) split their series against CHA opponent Robert Morris over the weekend, winning their first game against the Colonials in Division I history 5-0 Friday night but falling 4-2 Saturday afternoon. To read more on their weekend, check out my recap on Victory Bell Rings here.