UW splits penultimate regular season series with Penn State

Captain Luke Kunin and the Badgers stole a game in Hockey Valley, but were shut out in the latter portion of the series with Penn State.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Coaches often stress the importance of playing with a lead. Playing with a lead allows a team to skate with confidence and play more sound hockey without taking chances. This was never more evident for the Badgers than it was this weekend, as they thrived while playing with the lead but struggled to play sound hockey when skating from behind.

The No. 16 Badgers (12-6-0-0 Big Ten, 19-12-1-0 overall) split their series against No. 11 Penn State (10-7-1-0, 21-9-2-0) this weekend after winning their first game 7-4 and getting shut out in a 6-0 loss in the second.

In the first game of the series, the Badgers got out to an early lead in the first period and held on to a one-goal leading heading into the third. Playing with that lead, UW was able to focus on defensive hockey and create a sound forecheck, sustaining their lead and ultimately extending it.

"I thought we played really smart with the puck as the game went on," head coach Tony Granato said. "When you're on the road and you have a lead, with especially how dynamic they are offensively, that was a heck of a period for us not giving up many chances.”

In the second game, however, the Badgers fell behind and were never able to recover. Instead of focusing on defensive hockey and taking their opportunities as they came, UW often tried to force plays that weren’t there, and the puck consequently ended up in their own net.

"We tried to open up more offensively as the game went on and that led to more mistakes defensively," Granato said. "We didn't make the most of our chances. We had opportunities to stay in the game in the first two periods, and in the third we tried to open it up more and it led to their goals. The more we fell behind, the harder we tried offensively to get back in it and the more we exposed ourselves.”

Still, even with the disastrous 6-0 loss, the Badgers picked up three crucial points this weekend and sit just one game behind Minnesota for the Big Ten conference lead.

Going forward against Ohio State next weekend, the Badgers will look to start off the games quicker and play with a lead. Still, even if they aren’t able to jump ahead early, UW will look to play more sound hockey and not chase the puck looking to create something out of nothing. Playing the sound hockey that they did in the first game against Penn State will give the Badgers their best chance in the final regular season series before the Big Ten Tournament.

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