|1st Period||2nd Period||3rd Period||OT||2OT||Final|
Do you believe in miracles?
Penn State played two nights ago and played the longest game in Big Ten history the night before -- the Badgers had a first-round bye, then played a regulation game last night. On dead legs against a much fresher team, the Nittany Lions fought tooth and nail and won the marathon.
Freshmen Liam Folkes and Peyton Jones played the best games of their lives and won the dang Big Ten Championship in Penn State's fifth year as a Division-1 program. Jones made 51 saves and Folkes scored his team's two goals. Now, the Nittany Lions are headed off to the NCAA Tournament with some hardware in tow.
Uncharacteristically, neither team was able to generate a ton of offense to start the game. The first half of the period had a pretty blank scoresheet until a dirty Wisconsin hit woke Penn State up. It wasn’t called as a minor on the ice, nor was it called a major after a review, but Alec Marsh was sent off the ice while the rest of the team stood up for him. A Badger penalty 13 minutes into the frame gave Penn State the game’s first advantage and moments after it ended, Liam Folkes opened scoring with a great heads-up play and a snipe.
The aggressive play continued into the second period as James Robinson took a boarding penalty right at the start. Penn State killed it with ease. It played with an advantage through the middle and end of the period, but Wisconsin goalie Jack Berry did nothing short of stand on his head. Penn State went to the locker room with 17-15 lead in shots but only a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard.
Liam Folkes (5)
Matt Ustaski (6)
Liam Folkes (6)
Penn State received another boost at the start of third when Marsh returned to the ice and added to his team’s depth. The story of the period was defense, as neither team wanted to allow the goal that could decide the winner. An Erik Autio penalty halfway through ended up being a momentum swing, as Matt Ustaski took advantage of a bad bounce to tie things up. Wisconsin piled up chances late in the period, including when they thought they had scored after stuffing the puck inside the post on a wrap-around. The refs said it was no goal and the teams resumed play, still tied. Wisconsin outshot Penn State heavily in the period, but Peyton Jones willed the team into overtime.
As expected, Wisconsin’s fresh legs made a huge difference in OT. The longer the period dragged on, the more likely it seemed that Wisconsin would score the game-winner. An awful call on a Nikita Pavlychev “interference” gave the Badgers a powerplay with five minutes to go in the session. A desperate penalty kill kept the game going and forced double-OT again.
The Nittany Lions came out hot in the second overtime, looking like the better team for the first half of the frame. Then, after a beautiful breakout, Folkes was the hero.
Next up? The NCAA selection show is Sunday at noon. By going 3-0 in the Big Ten Tournament, Penn State should have a pretty good seed. What an unbelievable weekend.
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