Wisconsin splits series against lowly Spartans

Ryan Wagner and the Badgers were unable to sweep Michigan State this weekend.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

In the middle of the season, it is a common theme for coaches to dissect how a team is playing potentially above tangible results. Specifically, it is possible to grow from a game and build some good habits even in a loss. Still, at some point, if you want to be an elite team, the results have to be there.

This weekend, the No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers (2-2 Big Ten, 7-5-1 overall) split a weekend series against the clear worst team in the Big Ten, Michigan State (5-5, 1-3-0).

Since the season started, the Wisconsin narrative has been that this team is elite with both tournament and national championship aspirations. Of course, getting to that status is a process, and no top team runs through a season without some bumps. Even so, it is a tough blow to not sweep any single-team weekend series thus far this season.

Wisconsin won the first game of the series 6-3, but fell in its ensuing contest 2-0.

The Badgers ultimately out-shot MSU in the second contest 38-17. As the shots suggested, Wisconsin legitimately outplayed the Spartans. It was faster and, at times, created some good offensive opportunities. All of this suggests that Wisconsin is building in a positive direction.

"I think it's pretty easy to build on [this weekend]. We talked about playing as a group of five and playing what we would say is Wisconsin hockey,” associate head coach Mark Osiecki said to UWBadgers.com after the Wisconsin loss. “It's pretty evident that we played as a group of five and that we played our style. It was evident, the success that we did have."

Still, despite playing well in the loss, the fact is: Wisconsin still lost. And it lost to Michigan State. The Badgers had inconsistent goaltending, were unable to get two wins in a weekend and ultimately could only earn a moral victory — problems that manifested last season that UW thought it would shed in head coach Tony Granato’s second season.

Still, UW believes that its inconsistency is not a systematic issue. It is the opposite in fact. The Badgers believe in their system, and they think that losses like this stem from getting away from fast, puck-possession hockey. They believe that if they can get back to that style, they can earn a series sweep for the first time this season.

“We just didn't play consistently as a group of five on the ice,” Ryan Wagner told UWBadgers.com. “Some guys strayed away from our game plan. Even when things aren't going the right way, we just have to stick with it, because what they're telling us, it works. We just have to regroup here and get ready for Michigan."

Wisconsin will have to get back to that style of hockey, as the once No. 5 team in the nation may currently be on the NCAA tournament bubble.

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