Men's hockey

Badgers spoil Mark Johnson's historic night with mistake-filled performance

Wisconsin retired the No. 10 jersey of Badger legend Mark Johnson on Saturday night, the first retired jersey in program history.

Wisconsin retired the No. 10 jersey of Badger legend Mark Johnson on Saturday night, the first retired jersey in program history.

Image By: Téalin Robinson

In his three years with Wisconsin, Mark Johnson racked up a program-record 125 goals through a combination of accurate shooting, elite skating, smart play with the puck and timely hockey instincts.

On the night his number 10 was raised to the Kohl Center rafters as the first retired jersey in Wisconsin hockey history, the Badgers (5-8-5 Big Ten, 9-14-5 overall) showed none of those attributes, and got the scoring to match in a 4-1 loss to No. 3 Ohio State (12-3-3).

"Disappointed," head coach Tony Granato said. "It was going to be a special night, it was a special night for Mark and for our program. I was looking forward to our team having the opportunity to play in front of lots of people because I wanted to show off our team and we did not perform up to our expectations nor to our standards."

Perhaps energized by the pregame number retirement ceremony, and their near-miss against the Buckeyes the night before, the Badgers came out strong and went toe-to-toe with Ohio State for the game’s first 10 minutes.

It all came apart in a matter of seconds, as an errant pass by sophomore forward Linus Weissbach in the defensive zone went straight to the body of Ohio State’s Dakota Joshua. Joshua corralled the puck and wristed it past the outstretched blocker of freshman goaltender Daniel Lebedeff for a lead the Buckeyes would never relinquish.

Weissbach’s error — costly and unforced — took the wind out of the sails of a strong early start for Wisconsin despite a pair of early penalties. When the dust settled on the first period, the Badgers had outshot their opponent 10 to nine, but still trailed by a crucial goal on the scoreboard.

That was all the cushion Ohio State goaltender Tommy Nappier and his defense needed. The Buckeyes back end, which came into the game having limited Wisconsin to just two goals in nearly 185 minutes of action, was stellar once again and held the Badgers scoreless for 58 minutes before a goal by senior forward Seamus Malone after the game’s outcome had been decided.

"They're a very good defensive team that really waits for opportunities that we give them, it's very frustrating to play against," senior forward Will Johnson said. "It's one of those things they do, they take advantage of your mistakes and we just gave them too many."

Any hope that the Badgers might dig themselves out of the early hole dissipated in the second period, as the Buckeyes started to tighten their grip on the game. An extended run of time in the offensive zone for the visitors ended with the puck on the stick of a wide-open Tommy Parran at the high slot, and he took his opportunity to rip the puck off the post and past Lebedeff for the two-goal lead.

Ohio State’s Miguel Fidler got his own six minutes after assisting on Parran’s goal to put the nail in the coffin for Wisconsin, and the night that started out as a celebration of its best-ever player turned into an exhibition for the team’s worst traits.

"This was center-stage for us, this was our night that we were looking forward to all year," Granato said. "The progress we made over the last couple months we thought this was the chance we could show the rest of the country and college hockey that we were for real, and tonight we weren't."

Those issues were on display most glaringly during a stoppage with less than a second left in the second period, when sophomore defenseman Tyler Inamoto took a swing at an Ohio State player and was rewarded with a five-minute major and game misconduct. It was the third contact to the head-based game misconduct of the season for a Wisconsin player.

"It's not acceptable," Granato said. "When you get frustrated there are better ways to show your frustration than to become unglued and undisciplined."

Wisconsin generated a few quality offensive chances throughout the game, but unlike its celebrated scorer, it was unable to turn that offensive pressure into goals.

The lone bright spot for the Badgers came on special teams, where a penalty kill unit that entered the game second-worst in the NCAA kept Ohio State scoreless in more than 12 minutes of man-advantage play, including 85 seconds of five-on-three killing.

Wisconsin clamped down in the third period and allowed just one shot on goal — an empty net goal to provide the final margin — against a disinterested Buckeye attack.

Star freshman defenseman K'Andre Miller went down in pain after losing his footing on race for the puck and colliding with the end boards, and was helped off the ice and directly into the locker room without putting any weight on his left leg.

With the win, Ohio State completed the season sweep of Wisconsin and the Badgers dropped to five games below .500 for the first time this season.

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