Badgers almost complete comeback, ultimately tie Michigan 4-4 for four-point weekend

Senior captain Cameron Hughes and the Badgers struggled down the stretch in the third period and fell 3-2. 

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

They were losing, then winning, then losing again and then they ultimately tied.

Saturday night’s matchup with Michigan (2-2-1-1 Big Ten, 6-4-2 overall) followed an unusual, yet familiar story for Wisconsin’s men’s hockey team (3-2-1-0, 8-5-2), as they mounted a comeback to erase an early deficit but couldn’t seal the deal in an eventful 4-4 tie.

The stage was set dramatically in the first seven minutes as the Badgers dug themselves a quick two-goal hole on goals from Michigan’s Cooper Marody and Tony Calderone. Wisconsin recorded the first shot of the game but was subsequently dominated by the Wolverines, who recorded the next seven shots and controlled play at both ends of the ice.

The two-goal deficit looked foreboding for a team that hasn’t picked up a comeback victory this season, but the Badgers managed to right the ship following the second goal. When the dust settled on the first period Michigan still lead on the shot chart, but their advantage on the scoreboard had been cut in half by a power play goal by senior forward Ryan Wagner with just 3.8 seconds remaining in the first frame.

Wisconsin rode that late goal momentum in the second period with a pair of goals by freshman forward Linus Weissbach to take a 3-2 lead. The Badgers were relentless offensively, with 18 shots on goal in the period, and brought a level of physicality that hadn’t been present earlier in the game.

“I thought after the second period we had worn them down and I thought a good start to the third period we could continue to build on our lead and keep our momentum going,” head coach Tony Granato said.

That strong start wasn’t to be, as the Badgers allowed a quick goal to Michigan’s Jake Slaker that tied the game and then another, to Nick Pastujov, that put the home team on the ropes.

“I thought we had a good start, like first four shifts, but then we kind of got back on our heels. We have to learn how to play when we're down and then when we get the momentum [we have] to keep it,” Wagner said.

The Badgers managed to come back one more time, mounting an assault on Michigan goaltender Hayden Lavigne with an extra skater in the final minutes that lead to a tying goal by senior captain Cameron Hughes, but were unable to come away with a goal in the ensuing overtime and shootout.

“You spend a ton of energy when you do fall behind to try to creep back into it and keep yourself back in the game,” Granato said. “I'd like our team to learn how to break the other team's momentum a little quicker than we were able to do tonight.”

The tie still sealed the best weekend of Big Ten play for Wisconsin this season, as they collected four points in the conference standings against a talented and competitive opponent — a series that could be a preview for things to come as the Badgers wade into the meat of the conference schedule.

“This was a battle and this is what you're going to see a lot in Big Ten play throughout the year: two teams that are evenly matched that are going to compete for every inch of ice,” Granato said.

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