Men's Hockey: Zengerle's OT winner gives UW Big Ten Championship

Senior Mark Zengerle's goal in overtime wins Wisconsin the first ever Big Ten hockey championship.

Image By: Tommy Yonash

ST. PAUL, Minn.—Mark Zengerle is better known for his conference-leading number of assists than his goal-scoring.

But in sudden death overtime at the Xcel Energy Center Saturday night, the player his teammates call “the set-up man” changed his tune after scoring the game-winning goal to help crown the Badgers as inaugural Big Ten Tournament champions.

“It’s still a little bit of a blur … the puck was kind of hopping around, people were whacking at it in front there in the slot and I made my way around and got a little bit of wood on it,” Zengerle said. “I still don’t know if it went five-hole or under the pad, but it was nice to get that one.”

The Badgers seemed to be lacking their usual finesse at the start of the first period, turning the puck over in their own zone and failing to connect on many passes.

Ohio State took advantage of Wisconsin’s mistakes and notched its first goal of the game after Buckeyes junior forward Ryan Dzingel beat junior defenseman Jake McCabe in a battle for the puck along the boards. Dzingel’s goal was his 22nd of the season, assisted by junior forward Nick Oddo and freshman defenseman Drew Brevig.

Ohio State didn’t let up on its offensive onslaught. Just four minutes later, Dzingel’s blocked shot was taken by freshman forward Nick Schilkey, who then passed to Oddo to give the Buckeyes the 2-0 advantage.

“They were playing at a higher desperate rate,” said head coach Mike Eaves of the Buckeyes after the game.

In the closing minutes of the first period, OSU’s Brevig took an interference penalty, granting the Badgers their first opportunity on the power play. Wisconsin’s late-season special-teams surge continued and McCabe brought the Badgers back within one with assists from Zengerle and sophomore forward Nic Kerdiles.

Neither team had a shortage of scoring opportunities in the second period, but it wasn’t until about halfway through the frame that Wisconsin got the equalizer on yet another Buckeye penalty. With OSU sophomore defenseman Sam Jardine in the box on an elbowing call, redshirt freshman forward Morgan Zulinick scored his fourth goal of the season, assisted by freshman forward Jedd Soleway and senior defenseman and captain Frankie Simonelli.

“All of a sudden when we got down 2-0, the power-play goals really allowed us to get our feet underneath us,” Eaves said.

Ohio State didn’t seem to lose its composure despite giving up the two-goal lead. Less than a minute later, the Buckeyes regained their advantage when defenseman Clark Cristofoli scored his first goal of the season, putting Wisconsin in a 3-2 hole with 20 minutes left to play.

The Badgers spent the beginning half of the third period in the penalty box, committing two infractions in the first 10 minutes. Although it was unable to convert on any of its power play chances, Ohio State took advantage of Wisconsin’s disorganized play and took its second two-goal lead of the night on a goal from junior forward Tanner Fritz.

There were just over seven minutes left to play in the championship game. But it would take only 20 seconds to spark the UW comeback.

Senior forward Jefferson Dahl pulled the Badgers back within one on a rebound shot in front of freshman goaltender Christian Frey for his fourth goal of the year.

Twenty-eight seconds later, senior forward Tyler Barnes scored his 13th goal of the season, tying up the game and sending the Buckeyes and Badgers into sudden-death overtime.

The extended play seemed to spark new life in the initially sluggish Badgers. They took control of the puck from the opening faceoff and never gave Ohio State the chance to catch up. At the 7:48 mark of the overtime period, the puck made its way into the slot in front of the Buckeyes net, and Zengerle put it away to propel the Badgers to the first-ever Big Ten Tournament title.

“The attitude we came in with was that we wanted to win. It was important for us to get this Big Ten first championship,” Zengerle said. “We had no quit in our game or in our attitude, and it reflected out there.”

With their Big Ten Tournament win, the Badgers have likely clinched a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, set to begin next weekend. For the team, the victory this weekend is a stepping stone to a larger end-goal.

“We had made the analogy that going into the playoffs and the tournament and beyond is much like trying to climb Mount Everest,” Eaves said. “The higher up you go, the less oxygen is in the air. Games get tougher, and tonight was a tough game.”

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