Game notes: Wisconsin vs. Penn State

Sophomore defenseman Josh Ess scored the game-winning goal in the third period after Wisconsin's defense kept it in the game during a penalty kill.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

No. 18 Wisconsin (7-8-2 Big Ten, 13-12-3 overall) vs. No. 14 Penn State (6-8-3-2, 13-11-3).

Wisconsin beat Penn State last night, 4-2.

Goal scorers last night; UW: Seamus Malone, Josh Ess, Will Johnson, Trent Frederic (EN). PSU: Liam Folkes, Denis Smirnov.

Madison, WI. Kohl Center.

Goaltending

It looks like sophomore goaltender Jack Berry will be getting his third start in a row tonight against Penn State. Berry has probably had his best two-game stretch of his career over the last pair of games for Wisconsin. Against No. 1 Notre Dame last weekend, Berry posted a 40-save shutout and he looked calm and controlled between the pipes. Last night, Berry continued to find a way to make saves, as he only surrendered two goals on 37 Nittany Lion shots. Those strong numbers against PSU, however, belied a more shaky performance; Berry’s rebound control was often subpar, forcing him to make more difficult saves than he should have needed to. Ultimately, whether it looks crisp or not, Wisconsin will need the sophomore to play another solid game and find a way to make saves if it hopes to complete the sweep tonight.

Lineup changes

Wisconsin’s lineup will look a lot different tonight than it did last game. In the opening game against the Nittany Lions, UW used sophomore Trent Frederic, junior Seamus Malone, freshman Tarek Baker and senior Cameron Hughes as its four centers. Tonight, however, Hughes will be playing on the wing with Baker and freshman Sean Dhooghe. While UW did use Hughes often on the wing last night, it tried to keep those four in the middle to generate some offensive momentum each shift. Wisconsin has had some recent success with those four centers, which makes the lineup change interesting. Additionally, senior Matt Ustaski and junior Jarod Zirbel enter the lineup in place of freshman Jason Dhooghe and senior Cullen Hurley. JD Greenway will also play tonight after missing last night's game with an illness. The top two lines for the Badgers remain the same.

Consistency

While consistency is usually thought to measure a team's performance game-to-game, there is also a major element of consistency within the game. Essentially, it is pretty hard to score and generate offense if every other shift, or every third shift, is spent entirely in the defensive zone. In order to win, and in order to generate offense, there has to be an element of offensive consistency shift-to-shift, not just game-to-game. This has been a major issue for Wisconsin for a large part of this season. UW has shown flashes of dominant offense, followed by stretches of stagnant, slow hockey. Last night, however, UW found a way to break out of its zone crisply, and attack the offensive zone with speed, ultimately allowing it to generate something offensively almost every shift.

Streaking

The last time UW won two games in a row was against Northern Michigan and St. Lawrence between Oct. 21-27. After that win, UW went 0-2-1 in its next three games, then proceeded to largely alternate between wins and losses, with a few ties, for the next three months. Now, UW has found a way to win two in a row, against some of its best competition, and looks poised to continue that steak behind balanced scoring from the freshmen and the more established players like Frederic, who has now scored in four consecutive games. UW will likely need to go around 5-2 over its last five games, unless it wins the Big Ten Tournament, if it hopes to make the NCAA Tournament.

Read last night's recap from Ethan Levy here: http://www.dailycardinal.com/article/2018/01/consistency-depth-lifts-wisconsin-to-4-2-victory-over-penn-state

Follow along to @Cardinal_Sports on Twitter for live updates from the game tonight.

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