Series Rewind: at Penn State

Kerdiles had a productive series (UW Athletics)

Keeping its hopes alive to win the inaugural Big Ten hockey regular season championship, No.5 Wisconsin clinched a bye in the Big Ten tournament with a sweep of Penn State in State College over the weekend. BadgerNation rewinds the series.

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What Happened

No.5 Wisconsin kept its Big Ten title hopes alive with a swept at Penn State, winning 4-2 Friday and in thrilling overtime fashion on Saturday night, 3-2.

What's the Impact

Grabbing all six points in the series, Wisconsin (21-9-2, 12-5-1 Big Ten) gained some ground on first-place Minnesota, which has 42 points following a series split at Ohio State. UW needs to sweep next weekend and need the Gophers to struggle at Michigan next weekend.

With the win Saturday, Wisconsin clinched a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

"It's huge. It's tough to win three games when you go in to St. Paul and you're trying to win a tournament like that," head coach Mike Eaves said. "Giving us a bye, your percentages go up so that's a key factor."

Who was the Weekend MVP

Nic Kerdiles scored two goals over the weekend and had four assists and five shots on goal in the series. He played a key role in the win on Saturday night, hitting Mark Zengerle with a pass on the rush that led to the winning goal with 20.3 seconds left in overtime.

"We play different styles, but at the same time we're able to do similar things," Kerdiles said of Zengerle. "We know where we're going to be on the ice and that's why we're so effective getting the puck to each other and getting chances."

Three Areas of Concern

Power play: Wisconsin's power play had some rare momentum coming into the series after scoring four power-play goals against Michigan State. In the series, the Badgers converted on just 1-for-9 power plays and got just nine shots on those chances. In a close game on Saturday UW could not convert on any (0-for-4). It will be tough for the Badgers in the NCAA Tournament if they cannot convert on any power play opportunities.

Consistent starts: The Badgers started out with a strong offensive attack on Friday night but weren't the same team that scored two goals and put 16 shots on net Saturday night. Instead, UW had only seven shots compared to PSU's 16 shots, as UW gave up 43 shots.

"One of the biggest parts of the game is what happens before the game," said Eaves. "We make the analogy that you have to build your campfire before you come to the rink, and then you throw a match in it and then you play. Penn State had a bonfire going and we had a campfire. They clearly had done a better job of preparation. It's hard to get your game going when you're not prepared."

Tyler Barnes: Barnes has struggled as of late, but got a little forward momentum scoring a goal on Saturday night. While he did score, he had just three shots on goal over the weekend and only one point. The Badgers know they will need the senior come tournament time.

Three Areas of Excitement

First period goals: Starting out quickly isn't something the Badgers have been good at this season, but scored three first period goals against the Nittany Lions on the weekend. Having the early leads has been important for Wisconsin this season. The Badgers came into the series with a 16-3-1 record when scoring first, including an 11-3-1 record on Saturday nights.

"That first period was unbelievable by our team," goalie Joel Rumpel said of Friday's first-period effort. "It's one of the best periods I've seen in a while."

Shot blocking: Rumpel had to work hard over the weekend, but so did Wisconsin's defensemen. The Badgers got in front of five shots on Friday and 16 shots on Saturday. The more work the defensemen do lets Rumpel relax a little on the ice. Rumpel only saw 24 shots on goal on Friday night but 43 on Saturday.

Joel Rumpel: Considering he saw 43 shots and UW won a 3-2 game in ovtime speaks to the level at which Rumpel played over the weekend. Rumpel also did some work by himself on Friday, turning away three second-period breakaway shot attempts by Penn State. Rumpel stopped 24 shots on Friday and 41 on Saturday and allowed just four goals. He is now 18-4-1, averaging just 1.83 goals per game while saving 93.5 percent of shots.

Quotable

"When you come down to regionals, the Big Ten, and hopefully the national championship, there's going to be close games. You're going to have to battle through it so that's a good test for us to get a close one at the end. Luckily for us we got all the points we needed." –forward Nic Kerdiles

Who's Next

Closing out the regular season next weekend, Wisconsin travels to play Michigan State, who will try to spoil UW's hopes to win a conference title. The Spartans are overall 10-16-7 overall and 4-8-6 in the Big Ten this season and are coming off a series split against Michigan.

Wisconsin swept the Spartans in Madison two weeks ago, beating the Spartans 5-2 and 2-0.

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