On an emotional night at the Kohl Center where fans, ex-players, and staff said a final goodbye to legendary Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer, the Badgers struggled to match the passion of Penn State, and especially its captain, David Goodwin.
The Nittany Lions senior dominated play, scoring a pair of goals and adding an assist on Denis Smirnov’s go-ahead tally in the second period as Penn State took down host Wisconsin, 6-3.
“Tonight’s win was huge for us to get back on track,” said Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky, whose team had lost four games in row after reaching the top spot in the USCHO.com rankings for the first time on January 16. “It was a great effort from our team and probably David Goodwin’s best game of the year.”
After the Badgers tied the score with a pair of goals just over a minute apart in the second period, Smirnov banged home a rebound behind Wisconsin goaltender Jack Berry off of Goodwin’s initial shot. On the play, Penn State’s veteran leader outraced a Badgers defender to a loose puck in front of Berry, nabbing something he had little business ever getting a stick on.
“David did a lot tonight other than score goals,” Gadowsky said. “He takes his responsibility as a captain very seriously, and this season he’s been overly unselfish. I love that about him, but tonight it seemed like he was really taking care of his own game.”
The tide-turning Nittany Lions’ score came just 50 seconds after Badgers captain Luke Kunin’s power-play goal that knotted the game at 2-2. Goodwin padded the Penn State lead five and half minutes later after his quick shot off a set faceoff play beat Berry over his shoulder.
“(Goodwin’s) a great player and when he got the puck in the offensive zone tonight he was dangerous,” Wisconsin coach Tony Granato said. “We will have to be better defensively against him tomorrow and pay more attention to how we play against him.”
Goodwin’s first goal opened the scoring at 6:50 of the first period on a power play, as his innocent wrist shot from just above the right corner boards went unseen by Berry thanks to a terrific Nikita Pavlychev screen.
Pavlychev added an assist on the second Nittany Lions’ goal two minutes later, setting up Brandon Biro, who was left all alone in front of Berry. Penn State iced the game thanks to Trevor Hamilton’s short-handed rebound goal less than a minute into the third period and Zach Saar’s empty-net tally.
After making 30 saves, Nittany Lions freshman goaltender Peyton Jones picked up his 15th win of the season. Berry allowed six goals on 25 shots to record his fifth loss.
Just over six minutes into the second period, Seamus Malone got the Badgers on the board and back in the game, down 2-1. Defenseman Jake Linhart made things interesting with a power-play goal with just under four minutes remaining, trimming Wisconsin’s deficit to two goals, but it was to no avail.
It was a tough way for the Badgers to end a difficult couple of weeks for the program that is still reeling from Sauer’s recent passing. Friday’s night game represented the first colligate contest in Madison after that sad day, and featured a moment of silence plus an emotional tribute in between the first and second periods.
“I had the pleasure to meet coach Sauer a couple of times on campus, and he was just an unbelievable human being,” Wisconsin senior defenseman and DePere, Wisconsin, native Tim Davison said. “He was a great coach and a great ambassador for the game. It’s tough to have our hearts broken like that and then lose 6-3, but it’s something that was in the back of our minds. We will want to win for him, our coaches and our fans tomorrow night.”
Big Ten roundup
No. 12 Ohio State 5, No. 5 Minnesota 4
A stretch of three goals by Kevin Miller, Mason Jobst, and Tanner Laczynski helped Ohio State stun fifth-ranked Minnesota 5-4 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. After falling behind 2-0, the Golden Gophers had a 3-2 lead in the second period thanks to goals by Brent Gates Jr., Rem Pitlick, and Vinni Lettieri. Minnesota captain Justin Kloos scored in the final two minutes to provide some drama, but the comeback fell a goal short. Golden Gophers goaltender Eric Schierhorn made 23 saves to take the loss, while Buckeyes netminder Matt Tomkins stopped 35 pucks to earn his eighth win of the year.
Michigan 4, Michigan State 4 (Wolverines win the shootout 2-1 in five rounds)
Michigan State’s Sam Saliba’s goal with just under five minutes remaining forced a 4-4 tie in a see-saw affair with arch-rival Michigan Friday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Nolan De Jong picked up a pair of goals for the Wolverines, who trailed 2-0 initially, but battled back to take a 4-3 lead early in the third period. Saliba also ended up with two goals on the night, while goaltender John Lethemon made 22 saves in a relief appearance for Michigan State. Michigan’s Hayden Lavigne stopped 15 Spartans shots while recording a tie.