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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Wisconsin took a 3-2 lead in the second period on two goals in 24 seconds, but couldn't hold the lead with its season on the line.

Wisconsin took a 3-2 lead in the second period on two goals in 24 seconds, but couldn't hold the lead with its season on the line.

Penn State ends Wisconsin's season in 4-3 overtime thriller

10 minutes, 50 seconds.

That’s how long Wisconsin was able to extend its season, taking No. 18 Penn State to overtime in the final game of its Big Ten Tournament first-round series.

But the Badgers couldn’t stretch it another weekend, as they fell 4-3 in overtime to the Nittany Lions to finish off any last hopes of a miracle conference tournament run.

"The only thing you ask of your team is that you play hard," head coach Tony Granato said to "Our guys played as hard as we could. We just came up a little short."

The home team got the game off with a bang, as forward Liam Folkes took advantage of a Wisconsin defensive miscue just 78 seconds after puck drop to fire up the crowd at Pegula Ice Center.

Wisconsin’s coaches and players had emphasized the need to avoid chasing the game against one of the nation’s most explosive teams, and the early goal put them in a hole that threatened to derail the game and the season.

Four minutes later, the Badgers got a crucial goal from freshman Brock Caufield to even the score after he took a pass from sophomore defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk. The rest of the first period featured up-and-down, breakout play from both teams, but the score remained one apiece. 

Freshman goaltender Daniel Lebedeff looked spotty tracking the puck and allowed several rebounds, but made 15 first-period saves to keep the Badgers in early against Penn State’s high-flying offense.

Penn State broke through again early in the second period, after a roughing penalty by sophomore forward Tarek Baker set up a power play opportunity that Cole Hults capitalized on.

Trailing the Lions for the second time, Wisconsin roared back with a pair of goals in 24 seconds to take the lead for the first time. A beautiful set of passes on a power play rush put sophomore forward Sean Dhooghe alone in on Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones, but instead of attempting the point-blank shot Dhooghe dished the puck to senior Max Zimmer, who easily buried the puck in the high short corner.

With the home crowd still reeling from Zimmer’s goal, the Badgers pressed the advantage and sophomore defenseman Josh Ess came away with another on a pass from Zimmer at the low slot.

Wisconsin had five of the game’s next six shots, but couldn’t force Penn State to fold.

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"I felt like I had a lot of chances," Dhooghe said to "It probably would have changed some momentum in the game, but I can't sit and dwell on it now."

In the closing moments of the period the Badgers turned a chance to pull away into a back-breaking defensive miscue.

Wisconsin had a four-on-one rush enabled by poor defensive positioning, but their overpassing left them without a clean shot on goal on the rush. A kick save by Jones sent the puck the opposite direction, and with so many Badgers up the ice Penn State was able to capitalize to even the score.

The game featured 77 more shots after Alex Limoges tied it up for the Nittany Lions, but even with two of the country’s worst defensive units on the ice neither team could find the net in the ensuing 20 minutes of play and the beginning of overtime.

Badgers fans watched the season hang on a threat just minutes into the extra period as a shot beat Lebedeff five-hole and trickled just past the post to keep the game going. 

Wisconsin had its own goaltender-enhanced chance after a strange bounce off the end boards left the puck sitting just feet from a wide-open net, but freshman forward Mick Messner’s attempt was denied at the last moment by a diving Penn State challenge.

In the end it was the Nittany Lions who prevailed, taking advantage of a tired Wisconsin defense corps missing freshman K’Andre Miller and senior Peter Tischke. After setting up Limoges to keep the season alive, Folkes scored his second of the game to end the game, and Wisconsin’s season.

"It's a tough way to go, but like I said, I'm proud of all those guys in there," senior forward Seamus Malone said to "We ended the season the right way. In my eyes, we left it [all] out there."

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