The Big Ten tournament found its way back to Madison Sunday afternoon, as the No. 3 Badgers (4-2-2 Big Ten, 11-3-3 overall) played host to the No. 6 Buckeyes (3-4-1, 5-13-1) at the McClimon Complex. The two teams had just played the previous weekend in Madison, in a highly contested 2-1 win for the Badgers to conclude their regular season.
There was no love lost in the quarterfinal matchup Sunday, as both teams were physical all match, exerting their force to intimidate the opposition’s attacks.
Junior Badger forwards Christopher Mueller, Tom Barlow and Mark Segbers kept up the high level of play that the trio ended the season with, trying to break through at any opportunity that came in the first half, but Ohio State’s redshirt freshman goalie Parker Siegfried got his mitts on every shot.
His heady play included a sequence where multiple chances from both Mueller and Barlow were batted away, showing a keen sense of awareness for the young keeper.
His counterpart for the Badgers, redshirt junior keeper Philipp Schilling, had a calm first half, facing only one shot on goal which he handled easily. The game changed in the second half, as the Badgers were determined to capitalize on the litany of opportunities that they were able to produce.
In the 53rd minute, after corralling a loose ball, Segbers fired an opportunistic pass into the box placed just above the Buckeye defense. Barlow stood waiting for a chance and pounced on the ball, placing a tactical header to the far post. The Buckeye keeper had no chance even with a fully extended frame to deflect it away.
“The goalie made some pretty incredible saves in the first half,” Barlow said. “But we stayed confident, because we were getting shots on goal.”
The goal was Barlow’s fourth on the year, coming at just the right time as it sparked a flurry of Badger scoring. Wisconsin kept up those shots on goal against Siegfried, as redshirt sophomore forward Isaac Schlenker––who scored the game-winning goal last week against the Buckeyes––centered a shot that found its way right to redshirt freshman defender Elan Koenig in the box.
Koenig did the rest, finishing with a fiery strike that blazed into the net past the goalie to give Wisconsin a 2-0 lead in the 57th minute. “It was like a feeling I could never, ever describe,” he said. “I’m happy to get the win.”
The goal was the defender’s first career goal, coming right when the Badgers needed it most. Ohio State was never able to overcome the 2-0 lead, with the Wisconsin backline covering every shot, swallowing them into an abyss of white jerseys and clearing them away.
To cap off the successful offensive flurry of attacks in the second half, Barlow dished a ball to his attacking partner Mueller, who sent a shot determined to find paydirt for a 3-0 Badger lead.
Wisconsin was aware of the implications a win could do for their NCAA Tournament aspirations, as the team was placed firmly on the bubble to start postseason play. A win next week against the No. 2 seed Indiana Hoosiers will make the Badgers look like a solid choice for the Tournament, but, the Hoosiers will be no pushover.
Indiana currently touts a three-game win streak and drew with the Badgers 0-0 earlier this season, and will certainly be looking to send the Badgers home packing and continue their own run to the Big Ten title. UW will be thoroughly determined in practice this week, not just for the impending semifinal matchup, but the championship game that looms Sunday should the Badgers take down the Hoosiers on Friday at 1:30 p.m.
“Destiny is in our own hands,” said Barlow. “We just gotta keep winning.”