Roundup: Penn State Back on Track
Minnesota Uses Power Play to Rally For Win
CHN Staff Report
Concerns that Penn State's early-season rise to the top of the ratings would not hold, have all but dissipated after a huge weekend sweep at Wisconsin, capped off by Saturday's 5-2 win.
Penn State, in its fifth season of existence and looking for its first NCAA tournament bid, was the early-season darlings of college hockey, rising to No. 1 in the Pairwise. But a five-game unbeaten streak dropped the Nittany Lions to 11 and threatened to erase the team's early-season efforts.
But thanks to a pair of goals each from freshmen Nate Sucese and Denis Smirnov, Penn State is right back in the thick of things, up to No. 7 in the ratings again and within five points of first-place Minnesota with eight regular-season games remaining.
"They are difference-makers, and they had a big night, but I do think it was just a great team win," Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said of his freshmen, to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin has also been a feel-good story, having its best season in years under first-year head coach Tony Granato. Coming into the weekend, the Badgers were on the Pairwise bubble, but the losses dropped them to No. 21. This is just the first time all season Wisconsin has lost consecutive games.
“It's a weekend to learn from. It's a weekend to say Penn State was a better team this weekend,” Granato said. “We can't say, ‘Well we had our chances and coulda, woulda, shoulda.’ We didn't have our chances to win games this series. They were good. We weren't good enough. This is the first weekend all year that at the end of it you say we got beat by a better team.
“The whole series they played smart, they played a better road game than we were able to handle.”
Wisconsin goalie Matt Jurusik wound up making 39 saves on 44 shots faced on the evening.
“I think we just need to reset a little bit mentally,” Jurusik said. “We need to realize some weekends aren’t going to go our way and, me personally, I just got to reset my mind and get back to playing the game I was and I think that’s going to be a big help for the team as we go into next weekend.”
Penn State sophomore defenseman Kevin Kerr left the game with a lower-body injury and didn't return.
* * *
Minnesota went 6-for-10 on the power play and rallied for a 6-5 win over Ohio State to split the weekend series and move back into first place in the Big Ten.
"It was a big win for us," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "We were down some bodies and had to mix and match our lines a bit all night.
"It was one of those games where we felt like we were never out of it, and the power play got humming when we needed it to. It was just one of those nights that pucks were going in."
Vinni Lettieri had two of the power-play goals, and has a career high 15 goals and 29 points now, and is on a six-game point-scoring streak.
"I think we did a good job getting pucks to the net from the point and from the flanks," Minnesota's Jake Bischoff said.
Ohio State continued its stretch of high-scoring one-goal games. In its last four games, two wins and two losses, the Buckeyes have scored 20 goals and allowed 20 goals. All of the goals forced a goaltender switch for the second weekend in a row.
“We were just trying to wake our team up more than anything," OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. "That’s kind of what I did last weekend. It’s a message to the guys that we can’t just leave our goalies out to hang and we can’t take penalties. It was more of trying to get momentum going.”
Mason Jobst scored his 14th goal of the year, and hit the 40-point mark while extending his point streak to 14. OSU's Nick Schilkey, who leads the nation in goals per game, scored his 22nd.
"We're talking about shooting a lot. Even tonight, we didn't really get that many shots but for some reason they just find the back of the net," Schilkey said. "It's just a matter of trying to stick with it. We're working hard and good things are happening."
* * *
Michigan Tech won the MacInnes Cup as winners of the annual Winter Carnival series for the fifth year in a row, defeating Ferris State, 5-2, Saturday. Reid Sturos scored two goals for the Huskies (17-12-7, 14-6-6-3 WCHA).
"It's important to win Winter Carnival," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "We talk about John MacInnes and what he means to this program. Any time you can play for a trophy that bears his name, it is important.
"Tonight's game had the intensity of a playoff game. It was a hard fought game that came down right to the end. We had a tough loss last night, but I give our guys credit. They were prepared to play tonight."
Thomas Beretta put the home team on the board 6:10 into the first period on long shot from the red line that took a bounce in front of the Ferris State net and caught goaltender Justin Kapelmaster by surprise. Sturos added to the lead eight minutes later on a quick backhand shot for his seventh of the season, set up by Michael Neville.
"Mike had it in the circle on a mini 2-on-1 after a turnover," Sturos said. "He made a nice play to me, slipping it by the defenseman's stick. I just tried to go far side. I think the goalie tripped me, and it happened to go in."