For the 10th time this season, the Penn State men's ice hockey team lost by one goal. The Nittany Lions dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Wisconsin on Saturday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
With 20 seconds remaining in the overtime period, Badgers forward Mark Zengerle got a backdoor pass from Nic Kerdiles that he one-timed past Nittany Lion goalie Matthew Skoff.
"Man, 20 seconds left in overtime, that's a tough one to swallow," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "But we will learn to win those."
Penn State didn't have Zengerle or Kerdiles covered, and they made the Lions pay. Said Gadowsky, "They are finishers, and they finished. What can I say?"
Even with the loss, which dropped them to 6-24-2 overall and 2-15-1-0 in the Big Ten, the Lions played well overall and gave themselves a chance to win, Gadowsky said. The team "worked really hard for 60 minutes and 40 seconds and have nothing to show for it," he said.
Sophomore forward Kenny Brooks said he thought the Nittany Lions played a good game but need to be "better at pulling out wins in close games."
It was Brooks' goal with 2 minutes, 44 seconds remaining in regulation that sent the game to overtime. "I came around the net and threw it to the net, and it ended up going in," he said. "It hit off one of their skates or the goalie, I'm not 100 percent sure."
Gadowsky said it was gratifying to see Brooks score. "When you have a guy who works hard and is low maintenance, I like to think that the hockey gods smile on him once in a while."
Penn State came out a little faster than Wisconsin, but the Badgers (21-9-2, 12-5-1-0) still got on the scoreboard first. Midway through the first period, Keegan Meuer redirected the puck past Skoff. It was only the Badgers' second shot of the night.
"The goal gave us a 'let's settle down here and get ourselves going' mentality," Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said.
The Nittany Lions didn't wait long to respond, scoring a power play goal just over a minute later. From a David Glen pass, Casey Bailey hit a one-timer on a wide-open net from the left circle.
"I think a pass from Glen, anyone can put that in," Bailey said. "I give a lot of credit to guys giving the puck. That makes it easy to put it on net. I was almost nervous to miss the net [given how wide open it was]."
Wisconsin scored its second goal on a shorthanded breakaway by Kerdiles with just under four minutes to play in the second period. Kerdiles went top shelf, where Skoff didn't have a chance.
With the victory, Wisconsin earned a bye in the inaugural Big Ten tournament, which starts March 20 at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn.
Penn State will close out the regular season with a series against Ohio State at home starting at 7 p.m. Friday.