With Wisconsin clinging to a 3-2 lead in hostile territory, Peter Tischke laid his body on the line to help preserve the Badger lead.
And then he did it again. And again. And again.
Time and again he sacrificed his body in the third period, blocking nine shots in the final stanza.
Head coach Tony Granato, who played and coached in the NHL for 28 years, has seen a lot of hockey. He’s also seen some tremendous shot blockers, including current assistant coach Mark Osiecki. But he’s never seen anything like the individual performance Tischke, a sophomore defenseman, delivered Friday night.
“I think [with] the importance of that game and how the game was being played, that was probably the best that I’ve seen,” Granato said.
Granato compared him to former NHL player Karlis Skrastins, who played 13 seasons in the NHL. Stats on shot blocking weren’t kept until the latter part of his career, but over his last five seasons, Skrastins blocked 571 shots. In 2008-’09, he blocked a career-high 171 shots, averaging just over two per game. The current NHL leader in blocked shots, Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson, has 162 blocked shots, an average of 2.7 per game. Tischke averages 1.7 blocked shots per game. His 11 total in the Friday game against Minnesota and nine over the final 20 minutes defied all hockey norms.
Tischke was quick to admit that he had never done anything like that. He also confessed he wasn’t exactly ready to run a marathon the next day.
“I was pretty sore. I’m not gonna lie, I had some ice packs on me, but it comes with the game,” Tischke said.
His effort allowed Wisconsin to protect its slim lead and escape Minnesota with three huge Big Ten points. The Gophers outshot the Badgers 38-18 in that game. Goaltender Jack Berry stood tall, stopping 36 of those 38 shots, but would have been forced to stop several more had Tischke and the rest of the UW players not gotten in front of so many pucks.
“Nine in the third period, guys can do that in a couple games. But 11 in a game, nine in the third period, that’s crazy,” Berry said. “It’s just a confidence-builder for the team. You see guys doing that, everybody’s going to do it.”
Wisconsin has done it all year, laying out or going to a knee to get in front of a shot. Granato said it starts with captain Luke Kunin, a frequent puck-blocker who often sets the tone for the rest of UW. But the shot-blocking performance of Tischke and the rest of the Badgers Friday was a special effort.
“I think it shows the willingness and the competitiveness of our group,” Granato said. “That was courage. Those weren’t just wrist shots those guys blocked. They were blocking one-timers.”
Even though Tischke’s numbers jumped off the stat sheet, he was quick to say that the whole team was blocking shots, allowing UW to earn its biggest victory in two years.
“A big game comes down to blocking shots, doing anything it takes to keep the puck out of the net,” Tischke said. “I know there’s 26 guys in the locker room that would block a shot to win the game, so I think that just shows a lot about our team.”
Now the Badgers head to Pennsylvania to take on the Nittany Lions, the only team to sweep them this year. But Tischke is eager to step on the ice in Hockey Valley, even if that means throwing his body in front of slap shots again.
“We’re itching to get back after it. We’re itching to go play them in their building and steal two games from them,” Tischke said.
“They’re a good team, they get a lot of shots, so we’re gonna have to block shots again this weekend.”