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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, September 30, 2023

Cavallini, Kunin carry Badgers past fiesty Wolverines

Senior Aidan Cavallini, a perpetual fourth-liner, was promoted to the second line for the first time in his Wisconsin career Saturday night. He rewarded head coach Tony Granato with a pair of goals, giving the Badgers a 3-2 lead off a rebound and then eventually sealing the victory with an empty-netter.

“He’s been a workhorse for us all year. His role has become more important as we’ve gone along,” Granato said. “His consistency has put us in a position where we want him on the ice. And we thought putting him in that spot tonight would be a chance to play him more.”

Cavallini’s two goals tonight give him five on the season, all coming in Big Ten play, after going his previous three seasons without lighting the lamp even once. He has just six regular season games remaining in his career as a Badger, which is giving him a little extra push.

“People say, ‘play every game like it’s your last,’ and I think now that’s actually starting to hit me hard, because when you’re younger, you don’t really think about it,” Cavallini said. “That’s what I’ve been doing. It’s definitely pretty special.”

The Badgers struggled to hold an advantage all night, taking a lead three times before getting the last laugh. Another unlikely hero, sophomore defensemen Peter Tischke, scored the game-winning goal, tipping in a Will Johnson shot to give the Badgers a 5-4 lead with just under nine minutes to play. They wouldn’t look back from there, as No. 20 Wisconsin (10-4-1-0 Big Ten, 17-10-1 overall) defeated the Wolverines (2-10-2-2, 9-16-3) by a score of 6-4.

“They’re a good team. They never give up,” Tischke said. “After they came back after that fourth goal and we got the fifth one, we just realized we had to bear down and finish the game.”

Sophomore goalie Matt Jurusik, who was shaky all night and allowed two stoppable goals, made a key save in crunch time, swallowing up a shot from in tight with 44 seconds remaining. Nonetheless, it was not Jurusik’s finest night. After he had stood tall against a barrage of shots on a 4-on-3 power play, Jurusik whiffed on a soft shot from the blue line to allow the Wolverines back into the game. Then, after Wisconsin again claimed the lead in the third, Adam Winborg snuck a shot past the Badger netminder that appeared to be a saveable puck.

But Jurusik had the help of sophomore captain Luke Kunin, who was Wisconsin’s best defensive player Saturday night, making several key blocks to keep Wolverine shots from reaching the net. With 2:15 left in the game, Sam Piazza wound up from the slot with a chance to knot the score. Kunin, the team-leader in goals, took a knee in front of him, preventing the shot from getting anywhere close to the net.

Captain Kunin made another huge block in the first period, diving in front of a slap shot from the point. The shot hit his body and ricocheted out of the Badgers’ defensive zone. Freshman forward Trent Frederic chased after the puck and gained control just outside UW’s offensive zone, before skating in on a breakaway and beating Zach Nagelvoort with a wrister to tie the game at two.

“[Kunin’s] done it all year for us, he did it at the World Junior Championships to get a gold medal for his team there. He sets a great example for how our team is supposed to play,” Granato said. “He didn’t get on the score sheet as far as scoring a goal, but those blocks were as big as scoring a goal.”

Frederic’s goal after the Kunin block was his second of the period and fourth on the weekend. His first of the night came just eight seconds in, equaling the record for fastest goal in school history.

Despite Jurusik’s inconsistent play and a few defensive breakdowns, Wisconsin escaped with another Big Ten victory and kept pace with league-leading Minnesota. The Gophers were down to their last breath Saturday against Penn State when Justin Kloos scored to tie the game with 3.5 seconds left. Minnesota would go on to win in overtime to maintain its three-point advantage in the standings.

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The Badgers now enter their proverbial gauntlet, beginning with a trip up to the Twin Cities next weekend for a clash against the No. 5 Gophers. They then travel East to take on the No. 9 Nittany Lions, before finishing up their season at home against the No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes.

“These games are meaningful because we’ve done things right to put ourselves in this position,” Granato said. “We should feel good about our team. We also know that if you come this far, it doesn’t do any good to be satisfied with just getting this close.”

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