This season has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at No. 5 Wisconsin (19-8-1, 17-6-1 Big Ten) — a delayed start, COVID-19 cancellations, multiple injuries and World Junior Championship player absences. They came into the season ranked fifth in the Big Ten, ahead of only Michigan State and Penn State. But they didn’t let any of that stop them, as they came out as regular season Big Ten Champions and top of the leaderboards in multiple categories.
This is the best season the Badgers have had since 2017, when they finished second in the conference with a 0.569 winning percentage. Now, they enter the Big Ten Tournament as the top seed, a 0.729 winning percentage in conference play and a shot at making the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years.
You can’t mention Wisconsin hockey without including Cole Caufield. The sophomore forward finished the regular season leading the nation with 25 goals and 46 points, earning himself the Big Ten Scoring Champion title for the second consecutive season, four Big Ten First-Star titles and a finalist for the Big Ten Player of the Year Award.
He has also been named a nominee for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award, which is awarded to the top NCAA men’s ice hockey player each year. Winning the Big Ten Tournament is just another way Caufield can elevate his chances of becoming just the second Badger to win the award.
There has been just as much magic occurring on the other side of the ice for Wisconsin as well, starting with the two guys in front of the net. Robbie Beydoun and Cameron Rowe have been splitting up the task of starting goalie for each series since early December, a strategy that has proven successful with their 19-8-1 record since that point.
Junior captain Ty Emberson has done his part in leading the defense, as they have allowed an average of 2.3 goals per game — just 2.17 goals per game in conference play — in the regular season. This, in combination with his 10 points (three goals, seven assists), has made him a finalist for Big Ten Defensemen of the Year.
Head coach Tony Granato has also earned some well-deserved recognition on his team’s impressive comeback from last year’s dreadful performance — finishing last in the Big Ten with a 0.333 conference winning percentage — with a nomination for Big Ten Coach of the Year. He previously earned the award in 2017 during his first year as Wisconsin’s head coach when they finished second in the conference.
The Big Ten Tournament kicks off tomorrow with all games being played in South Bend, IN. As the No. 1 seed, Wisconsin will get a bye during the quarterfinal round and skip straight to the semis, where they will face the winner of the No. 4 seed Notre Dame/No. 5 seed Penn State game.
Wisconsin faced both Notre Dame and Penn State in two series each during the regular season, leaving them with a record of 3-0-1 against Notre Dame and 3-1-0 against Penn State.
Puck drop is set for Monday at 3:30 p.m., with the game available on the Big Ten Network. If they win, the Badgers will get to play for the championship on Tuesday at 7 p.m..