ST. PAUL, Minn. — A diverse and potent offense allowed Penn State to break through with 20 victories this season and finish third in the Big Ten during the regular season.
The country’s sixth-ranked offense was on display in the opening game of the Big Ten tournament as Eric Scheid and Connor Varley gave the Nittany Lions a 2-0 lead after one period.
Big Ten tournament
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McAdam made 35 saves and the Nittany Lions killed each of their four penalties in Thursday’s 5-2 win against Wisconsin.
“I thought we stayed fairly composed on the PK even though we had to kill a lot, four penalties to their one,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “But I don’t think we got flustered. A lot of that credit can go to Eamon, as well, the way he was playing. Not just the saves he was making, but he looked very calm. When he’s like that, it certainly helps our defensive zone.”
Scheid added an empty-net goal and an assist. An opportunistic offense capitalized on turnovers, with Ricky DeRosa and Tommy Olczyk scoring for the Nittany Lions (21-12-4), who have been outshot just nine times this season and have won three of those games.
Penn State will face second seed Michigan in the first semifinal on Friday.
Luke Kunin and Grant Besse scored for the Badgers (8-19-8) and Matt Jurusik finished with 24 saves in goal for Wisconsin. Besse had a shot ring off the post with 1 minute, 28 seconds left in the third period as the Badgers tried to mount a comeback.
“We were getting chances,” Besse said. “We were persistent but we weren’t rewarded with that next goal.”
Wisconsin outshot Penn State 13-9 in the third and 37-29 for the game, and controlled play in the third. But McAdam and the defense withstood the pressure.
The Nittany Lions entered the tournament with four losses in their last five games of the regular season. McAdam was pulled in three straight losses to end the season, one at Wisconsin and two at Michigan, giving up 14 goals in the process.
Reassuring his faith in McAdam, Gadowsky said the lapses weren’t on his goaltender. Against Wisconsin, who he had beaten twice earlier this season, McAdam rewarded his coach’s trust with the help of the defense in front of him.
“They kind of threw everything they had at us,” DeRosa said. “There’s times we had to hold on but Eamon McAdam stood on his head a few times there and certain guys made some big-time plays, won some puck battles which eventually led us to Eric getting one at the end there.”
Penn State blocked 17 shots and held the Badgers to just four total shots on four power-plays.
“The pressure points that they had on their penalty killing, we didn’t handle them that well,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “We tried to make adjustments and we just didn’t seem to get real comfortable with them.”