Wisconsin scored two unanswered goals off the stick of Michael Mersch to defeat Penn State 2-1 in Friday’s first semifinal at Xcel Energy Center.
Mersch tied the score 87 seconds into the second period and connected for the eventual game-winner on the power play with 11 seconds left in the period.
“After we get scored on, we’ve been taught to line up on the draw and let them know we’re coming for them. So that goal on the shift after was huge,” Mersch said about the Badgers’ quick response to falling behind. He scored 32 seconds after Curtis Loik gave Penn State a 1-0 lead.
Though Penn State played nearly 93 minutes of hockey in Thursday’s double-overtime victory over Michigan, fatigue didn’t appear to be a problem early on. Their big men — six players ranging from 6-1, 210 pounds to 6-5, 236 — instead challenged the Badgers’ size and physical play for as long as they could.
The Nittany Lions were unable to convert on the only two power plays of the third period and failed to get any shots off in the final minute.
“This was a tremendous experience, and we’re very proud of the strides that our team took. I thought we improved a ton,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “It was a phenomenal year to compete in [the Big Ten]. It was an absolute honor. I’m disappointed we came up a little short today but extremely proud of how far we’ve come.”
Matthew Skoff finished with 32 saves for Penn State, and Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel had 24 saves. The Badgers’ second line of Morgan Zulinick, Jefferson Dahl and Mersch combined for four points.