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Sunday, December 03, 2023

No. 7 Wisconsin continues grueling stretch with trip to Ann Arbor

Coming off of an exciting series sweep against then-No. 2 Minnesota, No. 7 Wisconsin (13-7, 11-5 Big Ten) will face No. 8 Michigan (10-6, 8-6 Big Ten) in Ann Arbor on Saturday and Sunday.

After winning seven of their last eight games, the Badgers successfully climbed to the top of the Big Ten leaderboard — the first time they’ve held this title solo since 2006. Leading the winning streak is Wisconsin’s offensive attack, which currently boasts the highest-scoring numbers in the country at an average 3.95 goals per game and four or more goals in the last eight games. 

Wisconsin’s offense can’t be mentioned without naming sophomore forward Cole Caufield as a key contributor. He currently leads the country in points and goals (33 points, 17 goals) and is coming off of a seven-game goal-scoring streak and 12-game point streak — all of which have been multi-point games.

The reigning Big Ten First Star of the Week, Dylan Holloway seems to have gotten his groove back since returning from World Juniors in January. The sophomore forward has an eight-game point streak going (five goals, 16 assists) and put up seven points against Minnesota last weekend.

On the other end of the ice, the Badger defense is doing their part just as well. They have risen to 17th in the nation in goals against, averaging 2.45 allowed per game, with senior defenseman Tyler Inamoto leading the nation in blocks at 53 total. 

Splitting goalkeepers Robbie Beydoun and Cameron Rowe between games seems to be a success after two weekends of the strategy — they’ve combined to allow just three goals over the last four games, saving 88 of the 90 shots (.978 save percentage) that have come their way. 

Rowe personally is second in goals-against (1.50 per game average) and a save percentage (.948).

While the Wolverines are coming into the series on a four game winning streak, they have not seen the ice since Jan. 22 — the entire Michigan athletic department went on a two week pause of all activities due to COVID-19.

This weekend will be another test for Wisconsin to prove that they belong atop the Big Ten leaderboard. The Wolverine defense is currently ranked seventh nationally in goals allowed (2.06 goals per game) and 10th nationally in scoring offense (3.62 goals per game).

Michigan players to watch out for include freshman forwards Kent Johnson and Thomas Bordeleau, the Wolverine’s leading scorers at 18 points each, along with senior forward Michael Pastujov, who currently leads the team with eight goals.

Junior goaltender Strauss Mann may pose challenges for the Badgers from an offensive point of view, as Mann has a .927 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average, along with nine career shutouts under his belt.

Earlier in the season, Wisconsin lost both games to Michigan. The Badgers, however, were missing Holloway in both games and Ty Pelton-Byce in the second. 

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Puck drop is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. on BTN and Sunday at 4 p.m. on BTN+. 

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