STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Cole Caufield wished he would have taken a different angle on the backcheck.
Daniel Lebedeff wanted another chance at the shot.
Maybe if those two things had been different, the seventh-ranked University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team wouldn’t have hustled out of Pegula Ice Arena on Friday night stinging from a series sweep.
But Sam Sternschein’s short-side goal on an odd-man rush with 8:10 remaining in the third period was the deciding factor in a 4-2 Penn State victory, the Badgers’ third defeat in their past four games.
The Badgers go for a series split at Pegula Ice Arena.
“I wish I could have taken it back,” Lebedeff said, “but it happens in hockey sometimes.”
Badgers coach Tony Granato and UW players said the go-ahead goal wasn’t a fitting description of Lebedeff’s play in the game. He was victimized by a bad bounce off a seam in the glass on No. 12 Penn State’s second goal and had little chance on the first.
It was Sternschein’s second score of the series, however, that had Lebedeff wanting a re-do.
Seconds after Lebedeff made a good save on Penn State’s Nikita Pavlychev, the Badgers rushed the other way with their biggest offensive weapons. But Nittany Lions goaltender Peyton Jones made a save on defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk’s chance from the slot, directing the puck to the left circle.
Pavlychev led a rush out of the zone and pushed the puck up to Sternschein for what became a 4-on-2 rush after Kalynuk and center Alex Turcotte followed the puck to the net in the offensive zone and left wing Linus Weissbach fell.
Sternschein accelerated out of the reach of Caufield’s stick after he entered the zone and, from the right faceoff dot, fired a shot that snuck under Lebedeff’s left arm.
“It was a decent shot,” Lebedeff said. “He got a weak spot.”
Caufield tried to push Sternschein to the outside while tracking back with defenseman Tyler Inamoto in the middle.
“Sometimes, goals like that go in,” Caufield said. “Daniel played a great game tonight. You can’t blame him for anything.”
Nate Sucese hit an empty net from the faceoff circle in his own zone with 1:32 left to account for the final margin and seal the Badgers’ loss despite a better effort than they had a night earlier.
The Badgers (4-4, 0-2 Big Ten Conference) played even with the Nittany Lions (6-1, 2-0) through two periods after losing 6-1 on Thursday.
“I thought our compete level and our battle was much better than last night’s,” Granato said, “but I still think there’s more.”
Ahcan was issued a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct in the third period of the Badgers' 6-1 loss on Thursday.
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By and large, there was little carryover from Thursday’s late nastiness, which included the ejection of UW forward Roman Ahcan for a hit on Penn State’s Denis Smirnov that led to a one-game suspension for Ahcan announced by the Big Ten earlier Friday.
Granato said he hadn’t heard from Big Ten coordinator of officials Steve Piotrowski about the punishment to UW’s second-leading point producer.
“He made the decision,” Granato said. “It would have been nice to have Roman in the game, that’s for sure.”
After the Badgers grabbed the lead via their fourth line and left wing Jack Gorniak midway through the first period, Penn State rallied in the second with a good effort and some good luck.
A power-play redirection by Penn State’s Brandon Biro off a give-and-go with Pavlychev tied the game 5½ minutes into the middle period.
A 6-1 defeat to No. 12 Penn State at Pegula Ice Arena in the Big Ten Conference opener left the seventh-ranked Badgers fuming about their effort and attitude.
Later, Liam Folkes wrapped the puck around the right-wing boards from the neutral zone, causing Lebedeff to cycle around to the back of the net to play it. But the puck hit a seam in the glass and changed course into the slot, where Alex Limoges got to it first and fired into an empty net.
“That’s one in a thousand,” Kalynuk said.
“It caught me by surprise,” Lebedeff said. “I couldn’t imagine that would happen, especially at a Big Ten rink.”
Still, the Badgers pulled even with 100 seconds left in the second on Kalynuk’s first goal of the season, a wrist shot from the slot that sailed past Jones’ glove.
Lebedeff stopped all 12 shots he faced in the first period, including a breakaway where Sternschein tried to beat him between the pads.
A half-minute later, he stretched out his right pad to foil Evan Barratt’s try from in tight to keep the game scoreless.
He made another solid save to keep the Badgers’ deficit at one in the second period. Barratt threaded the puck through right to left for Folkes, but Lebedeff kicked out his right pad while falling forward to turn away the shot.
“Daniel’s the guy you feel played well enough to get us a road win,” said Granato, who called the goaltender his team’s best player on the ice. “We weren’t able to take advantage of it.”
Wisconsin 1 1 0 — 2
Penn State 0 2 2 — 4
First period: W — Gorniak 1 (R. Donovan), 10:07. Penalties: S. Dhooghe, W, 16:25; Weissbach, W, 18:50; Barratt, PS, 18:50.
Second period: PS — Biro 5 (Pavlychev, Hults), 5:34 (pp); Limoges 2 (Folkes), 13:00. W — Kalynuk 1 (Weissbach, C. Caufield), 18:20. Penalties: Barratt, PS, 1:33; Inamoto, W, 3:58; Myllari, PS, 13:12; Gratton, PS, 18:37; Gobetz, PS, 18:37; Baker, W, 18:37.
Third period: PS — Sternschein 3 (Pavlychev, Jones), 11:50; Sucese 4 (Hults), 18:28 (en).
Saves: W (Lebedeff 12-10-8) 30; PS (Jones 6-8-11) 25. Power plays: W 0-for-3; PS 1-for-2. Att. — 5,980.