Sucese hat trick paces Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK — With a fast start and a Nate Sucese hat trick, the Penn State men’s ice hockey team picked up right where it left off before the Christmas break, extending its winning streak to four and unbeaten streak to nine games.

The Nittany Lions put away Big Ten foe Wisconsin 5-1 Friday at Pegula Ice Arena.

With both teams off for a month, there was uncertainty how either team would come out, and the Lions proved that they were very sharp. The captain, James Robinson, felt that before the game the team would come out and play its game.

“We had a really good week of practice,” Robinson said. “Anytime you take that long off, it’s obviously tough to get back. I think just with the maturity of our program, when guys go home for that long of a time, guys mature and take it upon themselves to make sure when they come back they are ready.”

Just 14 seconds in Wisconsin left wing Seamus Malone was called for high-sticking, giving Penn State an early power play.

Evan Barratt took full advantage of the 5-on-4 as he scored the first Nittany Lion goal of 2018. Wisconsin native Cole Hults thought about shooting from the blue line but decided to pass to Barratt on the left side.

Barratt than sniped the puck into the top corner of the net for his fifth of the season to give Penn State an early lead just 1:36 into the game.

The game went back and forth a bit before Sucese doubled the lead. Derian Hamilton found Sucese wide open as Wisconsin was changing lines and Sucese raced toward the Badger net. He beat Jack Berry with a shot of the left post for his eighth of the season.

Wisconsin challenged the play for Penn State having too many men on the ice, but the goal stood with the Lions leading 2-0.

Wisconsin had a couple of chances to get on the board late, hitting the post and failing to expose Penn State on a line change, but Penn State stood firm and ended the first period with that lead.

In the second, as in the first, Penn State struck early. It took only 11 seconds for Chase Berger to put the puck right in between Berry’s pads as the Lions continued to roll.

The Lions have struggled in the beginning of the their games this season and coming out firing in the first two periods was big, coach Guy Gadowsky said.

“Specifically the team had a goal discussion to be more prepared,” Gadowsky said. “I think we’re only plus-three in the first period and we’ve minus-four in first five minutes. (The team) wanted to turn that around. I give the team a lot of credit cause that’s something they made a priority.”

Not long after captain James Robinson was called for an elbow penalty, but it didn’t seem to matter as Sucese scored his second of the night short-handed. Sucese made a great run up the ice as he cut across the middle and beat Berry’s glove, putting the puck in the top corner and putting Berry on the bench not quite four minutes into the second period.

The Lions ran into some trouble with a few penalties. Andrew Sturtz and a Wisconsin player were both called for unsportsmanlike conduct and James Gobetz was called for cross checking. However the Lions held strong and killed off the 4-on-3 and the 5-on-4 as they took their 4-0 lead into the final period.

Wisconsin was able to get one back courtesy of Tarek Baker, but Nate Sucese finished his hat-trick with an open-netter as Penn State’s strong start was too much to overcome as the Lions got their first win of the 2018 portion of the regular season.

Sucese’s hat-trick was sixth in program history and second this season. He said he hadn’t had a hat trick since his first year of juniors while adding he was just happy to get the win.

“(I’m) just sticking with it and getting good passes from my linemates. Very unselfish play from (Brandon) Biro to get that puck out of the zone for my empty net goal to get the hat trick,” Sucese said.

Penn State and Wisconsin will conclude their two-game series tonight at Pegula.