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Badgers hockey sees chance to control Big Ten slip away in sweep by Penn State

It was deja vu at the Kohl Center on Saturday night. No. 10 Penn State took apart the No. 17 Wisconsin Badgers 5-2 to earn a series sweep and make things real interesting atop the Big Ten standings.

Nate Sucese and Denis Smirnov each netted a pair of goals for PSU, as Wisconsin was swept at home for the first time this season.

More importantly, it left the Badgers on 24 points and three points adrift of rival Minnesota for the top spot in the Big Ten. It also was a wasted opportunity to showcase themselves for the NCAA tournament selection committee.

Wisconsin being swept sent them down to No. 21 in the latest PairWise rankings according to USCHO.com.

Saturday night had an eerily familiar start, as Penn State found the back of the Badgers net first. A mistake by UW in the neutral zone lead to a 2-on-1 breakaway for David Goodwin and Nate Sucese.

They played the puck perfectly and Matt Jurusik was a sitting duck as Sucese put in his ninth goal of the season. It was 1-0 at the 13:33 mark of the first period.

However, Wisconsin didn’t let one mistake multiple in the first period. Instead, UW buckled down and found a way to continue to pepper Penn State’s net. The hard work finally paid off late in the first period, as Grant Besse delivered a great pass to a streaking Matt Ustaski for a 1-1 tie with less than 30 seconds to play in the period.

The two teams combined for 21 shots in the first period alone, as the game was played at a fast pace and with great intensity.

Penn State’s offensive firepower was too much for Jurusik, who had himself an off night. He stopped just 39 of 44 shots on the night and plenty of blame could be placed on his performance for most of the Nittany Lions’ five goals.

The Badgers were outshot 44-29 on the night, and simply had no answer for Penn State’s onslaught.

Wisconsin’s momentum was short-lived following its late first period goal, as Penn State put in a pair of goals in just over three minutes time in the middle of the second period. Sucese broke the deadlock with his second goal of the night at the 7:20 mark of the period.

Smirnov would put the game out of reach just over three minutes later, pushing Penn State’s lead to 3-1 at the 10:53 mark of the second period.

The Badgers just couldn’t muster up much in the way of offense in the second period. However, that didn’t stop captain Luke Kunin from trying his best to get UW back in the game.

He did that by knocking home a power play goal at the 17:27 mark of the second period.

Once again, Penn State had all the answers to Wisconsin’s challenge. It took just under three minutes for Smirnov to put the lead back to two goals, netting his second-straight of the game by just sneaking it past Jurusik.

The final nail in the coffin came at the 14:39 mark, as Trevor Hamilton put in his sixth goal of the season. It was 5-2 and Wisconsin couldn’t find a way to make anything really happen offensively.

Wisconsin will look to bounce back next weekend against Michigan at the Kohl Center, looking to bounce back after dropping back-to-back games for the first time all season long.

Friday’s game is set for 8p.m. CT puck drop with coverage on BTN, while Saturday’s action will start at 7p.m. CT and can be seen on Fox Sports Wisconsin or BTN2Go.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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