Badgers fall in conference opener against Ohio State

Trent Frederic has not been as dominant as many predicted thus far in his sophomore season. If Frederic can respond and pick up some offensive momentum, the Badgers will likely earn a sweep this weekend against Michigan State.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Wisconsin Badgers (0-1-0 Big Ten, 1-1-0 overall) learned that lesson the hard way in the closing stages of a 3-2 loss to Ohio State (1-0-0, 1-0-0) at the Kohl Center Friday night, as a pair of key defensive miscues soiled an otherwise strong defensive performance by the Badgers.

The Buckeyes came out stronger in what was their season opener, possessing the puck for long stretches and keeping junior netminder Sean Romero out of danger with only four shots on goal allowed in the opening period.

“I think they came out and got to their game before they let us get to ours,” head coach Tony Granato said. “They came after us, so the first period we never really got any momentum going.”

But the Badgers stayed strong in the face of Ohio State’s consistent pressure, with all five skaters consistently filling their defensive roles, remaining balanced and cutting down the openings for OSU’s potent forwards. Wisconsin’s play wasn’t excellent on either end, but it escaped the first period without giving up a goal in a situation where they often failed to last season.

Wisconsin’s defensive fortitude paid off early in the second when a questionably-legal screen by senior forward Ryan Wagner left sophomore forward Trent Frederic with the puck in space and a clear lane to shoot. Frederic took full advantage, stepping into a rocket on the glove side which froze the OSU goaltender and put the Badgers up 1-0 with 14:31 remaining the in second period.

But Wisconsin failed to build on the sophomore’s goal, and OSU’s star forward Mason Jobst delivered, scoring a goal and drawing a penalty just four minutes later that eliminated any remaining momentum the Badgers had.

“There was a period in the second, maybe a ten-minute span where we actually got to our game a little bit and looked like we were taking over. But we weren't able to capitalize and take advantage of that,” Granato said.

Both teams continued to trade chances, and penalties, throughout the remainder of the second period and into the third before forward Tarek Baker appeared to play the role of savior for the Badgers. The freshman drew a penalty shot on a one-man rush, and when he beat Romeo five-hole it looked as if the Badgers would escape the game with their first conference win.

"Obviously scoring that goal I was feeling pretty high and I think the team was feeling pretty high too,” Baker said.

That feeling wouldn’t last for long, as Buckeyes forward John Wiitala took advantage of a defensive zone turnover to even the score with five minutes remaining. And unlike the Badgers, Ohio State managed to capitalize on its momentum when Jobst struck again off a rebound with just over a minute remaining.

"I thought that we were playing well and then they got that little swing and then we were caught on our heels,” said Frederic.

The loss put Wisconsin on its heels in the conference standings as well, with the Badgers in need of a strong performance in Saturday’s rematch to avoid falling to 0-2 in one of the country’s toughest conferences. Granato was upbeat about the team’s chances after the game, although he seemed to acknowledge the urgency of the team’s situation.

“Defensively, we can be better. Offensively, we have to be better,” Granato said.

Puck drop is at 5 p.m. tomorrow at the Kohl Center.

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