Men's hockey

Wisconsin rides momentum swings to roller-coaster 8-5 victory over Penn State

Senior forward Will Johnson scored a pair of goals and contributed valuable physical play to help the Badgers collect their first win in six games.

Senior forward Will Johnson scored a pair of goals and contributed valuable physical play to help the Badgers collect their first win in six games.

Image By: Téalin Robinson

“The great teams are the teams that when the game is on the line, you figure out how to turn it into a W,” head coach Tony Granato had said the night before.

It wasn’t always pretty, it didn’t always look likely, but in the end Wisconsin came away with a win for the first time in six games, and did so in dramatic, roller-coaster fashion.

The Badgers (2-3-1 Big Ten, 6-7-3 overall) traded goals, big hits, and momentum with no. 6 Penn State in a back-and-forth 8-5 victory Saturday night that seemed to mean just a little bit more than usual.

“Getting down and coming back and not losing our focus, that was the biggest thing for us and why we were so happy,” senior forward Will Johnson said. “Having the lead and losing it is really tough so coming back and getting that win is huge for our confidence.”

Wisconsin looked down and out after allowing four consecutive second period goals to cough up a 3-1 lead. Penn State had the home team on its heels and had forced starting goaltender Daniel Lebedeff out of the net after his fifth goal allowed on just 19 shots.

The goal that turned the tide was arguably the unlikeliest of the 13 scored on the night. Johnson collected the puck in the corner and attempted to pass it through the crease to linemate Seamus Malone. His pass hit Nittany Lions goaltender Peyton Jones and bounced back, allowing the senior to corral the unintentional rebound and slip it past Jones with just one minute and 15 seconds left in the period.

“They go up 5-3 there and the bench was quiet and we were trying to figure out how to get some energy, that was a big goal,” Granato said.

Johnson also played a key role in the game-tying goal, intercepting a pass along the boards from Penn State defenseman Derian Hamilton and starting the play that lead to senior forward Max Zimmer burying the puck before being enveloped in a flying hug-tackle from elated freshman defenseman Ty Emberson.

Zimmer’s goal got the Badgers even on the scoreboard with ten minutes remaining, but with the Kohl Center crowd rocking and the Badgers energized on their bench, the emotional momentum was firmly on the home side of the ice.

Wisconsin took advantage just over two minutes later, as Zimmer attempted a pass to Miller that was tipped into the air by a Penn State stick. Calmly as could be, Miller tracked the fluttering puck, caught it and laid it down on the ice before ripping a wrister before the puck had even settled.

“It all happened too fast, I saw the puck come up, tried to grab it and put it down as quick as I could to get a shot on net,” Miller said. “I try shooting a couple pucks from that exact spot from after practice, so it paid off tonight.”

Miller’s goal proved the game winner, and the freshman’s play wowed not just the crowd on hand but his teammates as well.

“I was telling him ‘I cannot believe you made that play,’ that’s just elite skill right there.To pop it up, catch it, and shoot it right in one motion is a pretty tough thing to do,” Zimmer said. “It was a surprise for me. but when I heard it go off the bar I was obviously pretty excited.”

With more than seven minutes still to play and the nation’s top offense breathing down their neck the Badgers didn’t let up, as sophomore forward Tarek Baker scored to make it 7-5 before senior defenseman Peter Tischke buried an empty-netter to cap the scoreline.

Johnson finished the game with a standout performance across the stat sheet, racking up two goals, an assist, six shots on goal, a block and a plus-five rating.

"It's always nice to get rewarded. I would take two wins over two goals any day," Johnson said. "It's just fun to see it all work out for the whole team."

Wisconsin locked down Penn State’s high-flying offense late, allowing no goals and just six shots in the final 25 minutes of regulation. In the end, the Badgers scored five unanswered goals to collect their first win in nearly a month.

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