Penn State Hockey Preview: No. 12 Badgers Come to Town for Rematch in Hockey Valley

By Michael Green on January 21, 2021 at 12:00 pm
Penn State forward Kevin Wall (21) fires a puck on net against Michigan State. Penn State will host No. 12 Wisconsin this Thursday (January 21) and Friday (January 22) in Pegula Ice Arena.
Penn State Athletics
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No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers
8-6-0 (6-4-0 B1G)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
5:00 p.m. EST – THURSDAY, JAN. 21
PEGULA ICE ARENA
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA.
5:00 p.m. EST – FRIDAY, JAN. 22
PEGULA ICE ARENA
UNIVERSIRT PARK, PA.
GAME ONE: BTN+ | GAMETRACKER
GAME TWO: BTN+ | GAMETRACKER

It's been about two months since Penn State visited Wisconsin for a pair of games early in the season. If you went back and reviewed the tapes, you'd hardly recognize the team you see wearing the blue and white uniforms. The Badgers handed the Lions their third and fourth losses of the season (after also being swept by Minnesota) and looked like the far superior team in the process. Things have changed though, and this is not the same Penn State team that faltered in Madison.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, will look virtually the same, with just a couple of exceptions. The Badgers currently sit at 8-6 (6-4) but should probably have an even better record after a large number of players were missing for the first series against Arizona State when they were swept. Still, this is a strong team that's been hot lately, winning four of its last six with a sweep of the Sun Devils and splits with Ohio State and Minnesota.

Last Meeting vs. Wisconsin

Game One Summary
Penn State   Wisconsin
3 Goals 6
52 Shots on Goal 20
4 (8 min) Penalties 4 (8 min)
0 / 3 Power Plays 1 / 3
41 Faceoffs Won 32
18 Shots Blocked 20

Game One started out in a promising fashion. Kevin Wall continued his hot start with his third goal in three games to give Penn State a 1-0 lead. The lead wouldn't last long, though. Sam Stange tied the score just 1:28 later. Goals by Jack Gorniak and Stange put the Badgers up 3-1.

Tim Doherty pulled the Lions within one with his first goal as a Penn Stater. But goals by Brock Caufield, Cole Caufield, and Linus Weissbach put the game away. Connor McMenamin picked up a late goal to make the final score 6-3 in favor of the Badgers.

Game Two Summary
Penn State   Wisconsin
3 Goals 7
38 Shots on Goal 27
3 (6 min) Penalties 5 (10 min)
1 / 5 Power Plays 1 / 3
42 Faceoffs Won 29
8 Shots Blocked 32

Wisconsin began Game Two like they played most of Game One. First period goals by Weissbach, Dominick Mersch, and Cole Caufield put the Badgers on top 3-0 heading into the first intermission.

Alex Limoges got Penn State on the board in the second period. But Tarek Baker, Stange, and Cole Caufield each scored to extend the Badgers lead to 6-1.

Xander Lamppa and Clayton Phillips scored goals just 1:05 apart to give the Lions a little bit of hope. But Cole Caufield finished off the hat trick making the final score 7-1.

This Time Around

This series will be at home, which always seems to favor Penn State, even with no Roar Zone and very few fans in attendance. The young Nittany Lions have begun to develop some chemistry and have gone 7-2-0 over their last nine games.

The Badgers will have Dylan Holloway for this series. The NHL first-round draft pick missed the first meeting to attend Hockey Canada's national junior team selection camp for the World Juniors Championship.

Offense

Wisconsin is the second highest-scoring team in the Big Ten – just one goal behind Michigan – with 49 goals in 14 games (3.50 per game). Cole Caufield and Weissbach are tied for fourth in the country in scoring.

Penn State sits fourth in the conference in scoring with 43 goals. But the Lions have averaged 3.67 goals per game over its last nine games, helping them quickly re-ascend to their normal spot among the conference leaders.

Penn State's Leading Scorers
Player Games Goals assists points
Alex Limoges 14 8 6 14
Kevin Wall 14 6 7 13
Tim Doherty 14 5 7 12
Wisconsin's Leading Scorers
Player Games Goals Assists Points
Cole Caufield 14 8 9 17
Linus Weissbach 14 7 10 17
Owen Lindmark 14 3 7 10

 

 

 

 

 

Defense

The last time these two faced off, the Nittany Lions were still trying to figure out who should be on the ice and what the pairings should be. It showed in their performance. The Badgers scored on breakaways, off rebounds that might have been cleared, off wide open drives down the center of the ice, and just about every other way possible.

The Lions seem to have settled on pairings as they've mostly remained unchanged since the holiday break. The defense has been much more consistent as a result. The team has done a better job of limiting breakaways and clearing pucks out of harm's way.

Wisconsin is a team that can be scored upon. They've given up eight goals once and five goals twice. But their last series against high flying Arizona State showed they can also play tight defense. In the two games combined, the Sun Devils managed only two goals on 34 shots. In the first game, ASU only managed to get 11 shots on goal while getting shut out.

Goaltending

If it wasn't settled before, it seems settled now. Oskar Autio has won the goaltending competition over Liam Soulière. Autio has started the last four games and five of six since the break. Over his last six starts, the junior has allowed just two goals per game. And that includes the five he allowed in one game against Ohio State. That doesn't mean we've seen the last from Soulière in 2021, but his appearances will likely be fewer and further between from now on.

Robbie Beydoun got most of the starts for the Badgers early in the season. Freshman Cameron Rowe got both starts against Arizona State and picked up two wins, including a shutout.

Penn State's Goaltending
Player Games W l T GAA SV%
Oskar Autio 10 6 4 0 2.91 .890
Liam Souliere 4 1 3 0 4.37 .850
Wisconsin's Goaltending
Player Games W L T GAA SV%
Robbie Beydoun 11 5 5 0 3.53 .904
Cameron Rowe 5 3 1 0 1.22 .952

 

 

Bold Prediction

Penn State wasn't the team it is now the first time these two met. It was a young team trying to figure out its lines, defensive pairings, and its goaltender. This time around, all of those things seem much more settled. Still, it will be a tall task to beat this Badgers team. It's still loaded with future NHL talent, including a pair of first-round draft pick forwards. But if the Lions play their game and don't let Wisconsin score in bunches, they can beat the Badgers. I believe the teams split this series with Penn State winning 5-3 and Wisconsin winning 4-2.

Both games (Thursday and Friday) are scheduled to start at 6:00 PM and both games will be available on BTN+. As always, follow @RLRblog on Twitter and check back here for coverage of the games.

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