axe: The Wisconsin football team celebrates its defense of Paul Bunyan's Axe in OctoberImage By: Lorenzo Zemella
5: Wisconsin Men's Hockey vs. New Hampshire, Oct. 31, 6-1 Wisconsin
You might think Halloween is not the ideal time for a hockey game.
But despite heading to a contest sandwiched between an afternoon football game at Camp Randall Stadium and a night on State Street, the crowd at the Kohl Center was electric and the Wisconsin men's hockey team turned in a dominating 6-1 performance over perennial Hockey East power New Hampshire.
After skating a scoreless first period with the Wildcats, the Badgers exploded for three goals in a three-minute span early in the second. Sophomore forward Jordy Murray started the barrage 2:54 into the period, and ended it exactly three minutes later with a beautiful breakaway goal.
Wisconsin continued to pour it on in the third period, getting goals from freshman defenseman John Ramage and senior forwards Sean Dolan and Michael Davies.
The win put an exclamation mark on a series that began with a 4-1 victory and saw Wisconsin outscore New Hampshire 10-2, earning its first sweep of the year.
The game stands as a microcosm of Wisconsin's current campaign, showcasing a high-octane offense and the Badgers' talented corps of defensemen. On this night the Badgers also got great play from junior goaltender Scott Gudmandson, who stopped twelve of the thirteen shots he faced, capping off the Wisconsin men's hockey team's best game of 2009.
4: Wisconsin Football vs. Minnesota, Oct. 3, 31-28 Wisconsin
Heading into the first ever Big Ten conference game at TCF Bank Stadium to take on 4-1 Minnesota, the undefeated Badgers still faced plenty of questions: When will John Clay develop into a reliable feature running back? How will quarterback Scott Tolzien fare in his first game away from Camp Randall? Can the Wisconsin defense stop Eric Decker and the proficient Gopher passing offense? After the first half, the answers to these questions weren't very reassuring.
Tolzien threw one interception, but very well could have been thrown more as he struggled to find consistency. Clay couldn't get past the Gopher defensive line and rushed for just 25 yards. To top it off, Decker made the Badger secondary look like a sieve and helped spot Minnesota to a 13-10 lead at halftime.
In the second half, everything changed. In his signature half of the season, Clay bulldozed over the Gopher defense for 159 yards and two touchdowns and finished the game with a career-high 184 yards and three touchdowns.
Ironically, the Badger's biggest run of the game came from Tolzien. With less than five minutes left and the Badgers up 24-21, the junior took a naked bootleg 47 yards down the field to set up Clay's third touchdown to give Wisconsin a 10 point lead. Yet the game was far from over.
No stranger to close games, the Wisconsin defense gave up a quick score and the Gopher's regained the ball with less than two minutes down just three points. A play after the Badgers allowed the Gophers to convert a fourth and 16 deep in Minnesota territory, senior defensive end O'Brien Schofield sacked and stripped quarterback Adam Weber and freshman linebacker Chris Borland pounced on the ball to end the game.
It wasn't Wisconsin's prettiest win of the year, but few were. Ultimately, clutch performances from key players helped retain Paul Bunyan's axe for the Badgers.
3: Wisconsin Men's Basketball vs. Florida State, March 20, 61-59 Wisconsin
To begin their 2009 NCAA tournament the 12th-seeded Badgers had their hands full when they drew the 5th-seeded Florida State Seminoles. Wisconsin hovered around the bubble line as the conference tournaments ended and were one of the last at-large bids to get it, usually not a good formula for a first round victory.
Some saw the Badgers as an attractive upset pick but nobody gave Bo Ryan and his team a significant chance to eliminate Florida State. Less than a week prior to the game the Seminoles knocked off North Carolina, the eventual national champions, in the ACC tournament, and the Seminoles also suited up one of the most underrated guards in the country in Toney Douglas.
The Badgers' chances shrunk even smaller when they found themselves down 31-19 at halftime after shooting just 28 percent. But behind 11 second half points from Jason Bohannon, including a 3 at the end of the shot clock with less than a minute in regulation, the Badgers managed to send the game to overtime.
Overtime went back and forth and with eight seconds remaining the Badgers had the ball, trailing by one point. Then, in one of the great moments in the tournament the Badgers cleared the lane and let Trevon Hughes do his thing. With Douglas guarding him Hughes drove, spun, was fouled, and flipped up a shot that banked off the glass and fell in to seal the upset win for the Badgers.
Even though Wisconsin lost in the next round, the win over Florida State proved what Badger fans already knew: You can never count out the Badgers and Ryan, even when chances are slim. It was a lesson fans would learn once again the next season against Duke.
2: Wisconsin Women's Hockey vs. Mercyhurst, March 22, 5-0 Wisconsin
Considering the way the 2008-'09 Wisconsin women's hockey team dominated their competition all season, there was only one way for the NCAA National Championship game in Boston to go. After handling the WCHA and the nation easily throughout the year, the Badgers capped off their near-perfect season with an impressive 5-0 win over Mercyhurst in the NCAA finals to claim the program's third title.
Senior goaltender Jessie Vetter stopped 37 shots en route to her 14th shutout of the season and the 38th of her career, extending the NCAA shutout record she set earlier in the season. On the offensive side, the Badgers' balanced threat was on display as five players scored Wisconsin's five goals.
The game was the swan song for a historic class of six seniors who left the school truly on top, smashing records and claiming three national titles in four years. It is a testament to the strength of the team that six of its members and head coach Mark Johnson were selected for the U.S. National Team that will play this February in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Despite the team's early struggles this year, they appear to be reclaiming some of the swagger that led to their dominating performance in the NCAA title game.
Though they did not attract much attention from most Wisconsin fans, the women's hockey program was certainly the strongest and most successful team at Wisconsin last year, and their victory in the NCAA finals was the last piece to their dream season.
1: Wisconsin Men's Basketball vs. Duke, Dec. 2, 73-69 Wisconsin
In college sports, there are not many more exciting moments for fans than when their school brings in a prestigious non-conference opponent for a big home game. That's exactly what Badger fans got when the Duke Blue Devils traveled up to Madison.
Wisconsin jumped out to a 12-5 lead to start the game and didn't looked back. Propelled by 26 points from Trevon Hughes and some clutch free-throw shooting and defense late in the game, the Badgers never trailed, holding on for the upset victory over the No. 6 Blue Devils.
The victory for the Badgers was a special one on multiple levels, with the most obvious being the fact that Wisconsin beat a program like Duke. Regardless of who is on the team, or even particularly how good the team is that year, a win over Duke is a signature victory the UW fans, players and coaching staff can remember for the rest of their lives.
When one thinks about big college basketball victories, NCAA Tournament games will likely come to mind first. But there is something to be said about a big victory at home. The Duke victory was one thousands of fans could enjoy live, from the tip-off to the final buzzer.
The crowd made the most of the chance, bringing the noise volume to an ear-piercing level at numerous points in the game and of course rushing on to the court, creating an unforgettable memory for fans at the Kohl Center.
The icing on the cake was that the game helped secure an unexpected victory for the Big Ten in the Challenge, its first in the 11-year history of the affair, and marked Duke's loss in the challenge.
Wisconsin's home win over No. 6 Duke this season should go down as its greatest regular season non-conference win ever.
—Scott KelloggSubscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter