For their first series atop the Big Ten leaderboard, No. 7 Wisconsin (14-8, 12-6 Big Ten) split the weekend with No. 8 Michigan (11-7, 9-7 Big Ten), coming up short on Saturday but turning around the narrative for Sunday.
For almost the entirety of the first period of game one, it looked like Michigan had yet to shake off the rust from their two week pause and Wisconsin was by far the superior team.
Nine minutes in, freshman forward Matty De St. Phalle found the back of the net for the second time in his collegiate career — Owen Lindmark took goalkeeper Robbie Beydoun’s rebound and fed it up the side of the ice to De St. Phalle, allowing him to score on the breakaway.
With the help from some impressive goalkeeper Robbie Beydoun saves, the first period would end with the Badgers leading 1-0, but that lead would quickly diminish and never return.
It all began with two Wolverine goals early in the second period — Brendan Brisson found the back of the net less than two minutes in. Just 92 seconds later, Matty Beniers scored to give Michigan a 2-1 lead.
Michigan continued their offensive dominance four minutes later by capitalizing on Beydoun’s rebound, with Eric Ciccolini there to shoot the puck into the net. They managed to score one more time in the period, with Luke Morgan getting the puck to bounce in off the pipe, allowing them to end the period with the 4-1 lead.
To start off the third period, freshman Cameron Rowe replaced Beydoun in front of the goal. The switch, however, would not solve all of their defensive issues.
Michigan’s Nick Granowicz deflected a shot attempt, leading the puck to bounce off his shoulder and through Rowe’s five-hole.
The Badgers were never able to find the back of the net after that first period goal, and the Wolverines would go home with the 5-1 victory.
On top of their victory, Michigan also managed to end the impressive point-scoring streaks for much of Wisconsin’s offense — including Cole Caufield (12 games), Ty Pelton-Byce (nine games) and Dylan Holloway (eight games) — with freshman goalkeeper Erik Portillo stopping 29 of the 30 shots that came his way.
“There’s gonna be games like this that happen — you don’t get some bounces, you give them a couple of chances and they put them in the back of the net,” Pelton-Byce said. “All you can do is build from it, learn from it. Better it happens in February than in March or April.”
This loss comes a week after Wisconsin rose to the top of the Big Ten Leaderboard and swept then-No. 2 Minnesota, outscoring them 12-2 over the two game series. Head Coach Tony Granato explained the loss as the Badgers not playing together as a team like they did in their previous series.
“We weren’t connected as well as we were last week, Minnesota had to go through five of us. Tonight we were separated without the puck and gave them some room to skate coming back into our end,” Granato said. “When you’re a first place team, that’s what you’re gonna get — the other team’s best.”
Wisconsin looked much better during Sunday’s matchup. Roman Achan, who’s offense has come alive in recent weeks, notched two points (goal, assist) in Sunday’s hard fought match.
Dylan Holloway also had a nice game with a goal and an assist, and Cameron Rowe added 22 saves in the Badgers 3-2 victory over the Wolverines.
With the big Sunday victory, Wisconsin stayed ahead of Michigan in the new NCAA rankings. The Badgers are now ranked fifth behind Minnesota, Boston College, North Dakota and Minnesota State.
This is the first time since October of 2017 that the Wisconsin Badgers were in the top five of the USCHO, as well as the first time since March of 2014 that the Badgers were ranked this highly right ahead of the NCAA tournament.
As Wisconsin winds down the last few weeks of Big Ten play, all eyes are on Granato, who seeks to change the national narrative that Wisconsin has declined during his tenure as head coach. Wisconsin’s high-flying offense and staunch defense will prove to be a tough out for any team on the schedule for the rest of the season.
Wisconsin will be home again this Friday and Saturday as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish head to Madison to take on the Badgers. The game will air at 7:00 p.m. on Friday and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday on Fox Sports Wisconsin or 1310 WIBA in the Madison area.