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Friday, December 01, 2023
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Tom Lynn / UW Athletics

Wisconsin, still searching for a win, drops consecutive duels to St. Cloud State

After going winless in the season’s opening weekend, the Wisconsin Badgers dropped another two games to the St. Cloud State Huskies – leaving them with a concerning 0-4 record.

The warning sirens are blaring in Madison after Wisconsin (0-4-0, 0-2-0 Big Ten) sustained a series loss to No. 10 St. Cloud State (4-0-0, 0-0-0), thus beginning their season 0-4 for just the third time in 60 years.   

The Badgers dug themselves a second period hole they never climbed out of on Friday night, losing their home opener at the Kohl Center, 5-1.

Tensions began to rise early on in the contest after UW freshman Jack Horbach was assessed a charging penalty at 1:31 in the first period. St. Cloud State’s Brady Ziemer didn’t take kindly to the offense, retaliating with a cross-check into Horbach’s back. Several light pushes ensued – to the pleasure of the 7,030 in attendance – before the pair were separated and ushered to their respective penalty boxes.

The Badgers would once again find themselves in penalty trouble as the period drew to a close. With 55.6 seconds left in the first, sophomore Corson Ceulemans was called for hooking and sent to the box for two minutes. The defenseman did little to hide his frustration, firing the puck down the ice and exchanging words with the officials – earning himself an additional 10 minute misconduct penalty.

“It wasn't a performance that we're looking for out of a player like him or any player,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said of Ceulemans, a 2021 first-round draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets. “He needs to be better along with lots of other players.”

Wisconsin skated off the ice in good spirits after the scoreless first period in which they outshot St. Cloud State 12-7. Those positive feelings quickly dissipated minutes into the second.

With 16:04 left in the second period, SCSU’s Grant Cruikshank – who decommitted from Wisconsin in 2017 – buried the first goal of the game to break the scoring drought and put the Huskies up, 1-0. After teammate Micah Miller’s wrap-around shot flew through the crease, Cruikshank handled the puck on the far side and ripped it over the shoulder of UW goalie Jared Moe for his second goal of the season.

The Badgers allowed several golden opportunities to slip through their hands in the ensuing minutes of the second, as forwards Carson Bantle, Liam Malmquist and Sam Stange were unable to corral multiple passes in the offensive zone. At 11:49 in the period, Wisconsin was handed another opportune chance in the form of a power play following SCSU’s Jami Krannila’s interference penalty. 

Despite the one man advantage, Wisconsin looked to be overmatched by the Huskies, who capitalized on UW’s lack of effort by netting a shorthanded goal with 6:49 left in the second. 

As Stange lethargically approached the puck in the defensive zone, Cruikshank sped past the UW junior and fed SCSU’s Grant Ahcan in the slot for the easy score. Though St. Cloud State would fail to convert on a two-on-zero break less than a minute later, Cooper Wylie netted a shot from the point at 14:12 to cap off the three-goal period and build onto the Huskies’ commanding lead.

UW junior Mathieu De St. Phalle gave the home crowd something to cheer for with 6:50 left in the third period, chipping in a shot to pull the Badgers within two, 3-1. After sophomore Daniel Laatch’s shot deflected several feet up in the air, De St. Phalle located the bouncing puck at the front of the net and swatted it in for the score, letting out an emotional fist pump moments later.

Consecutive goals by SCSU’s Spencer Meier and Dylan Anhorn at 15:11 and 16:27 in the third swiftly squandered any hopes of a Badgers comeback as the Huskies secured a resounding 5-1 victory.

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Similar to the prior night’s game, Saturday’s contest featured a penalty just minutes into the first period. Wisconsin was gifted a power play after St. Cloud State’s Grant Achan was assessed a holding penalty with 18:02 left in the first but once again failed to convert — amassing just one shot on goal.

Wisconsin and St. Cloud State continued to exhibit their defensive prowess throughout the period, with the Huskies leaving the scoreless first holding a 7-6 shots on goal advantage. As the second trudged on and both sides remained deadlocked in a 0-0 tie, tensions boiled over with 10:50 left in the period.

Moments after UW forward Jack Gorniak’s shot was saved, Horbach rushed to the net in an attempt to wrangle the puck from goalie Dominic Basse. SCSU’s Krannila hastily came to the defense of his teammate, hammering Horbach down from behind after the whistle. Officials didn’t believe the act constituted a penalty and play ensued soon after.

Only several minutes passed before Horbach found himself at the center of a second altercation. With 8:51 left in the second, the UW forward launched Veeti Miettinen down to the ice, though escaped without a penalty. The linesmen’s attention was likely too focused on UW’s Owen Lindmark and SCSU’s Zach Okabe, who were both assessed roughing penalties after wrestling one another to the floor. 

The Badgers would find themselves in the penalty box again not long after. As SCSU’s Adam Ingram chased down the puck in Wisconsin’s defensive zone with 6:46 left in the period, UW junior Ty Smilanic cross checked the forward from behind. The ugly hit resulted in Ingram crashing head first into the boards and a five minute major issued to Smilanic.

Though Wisconsin was able to kill the major – thanks in large part to goalie Kyle McClellan, who blocked nine shots on goal during the penalty – SCSU’s Cruikshank chip shot nine seconds later found the back of the net, giving the Huskies a 1-0 lead. 

Wisconsin came barreling back in the third, as Ceulemans netted his first goal of the season at 8:34 in the period. Handling a cycle feed from defenseman Mike Vorlicky, Ceulemans rocketed the puck in close proximity over the defenders stick and into the top left corner of the goal. The graceful score tied the game at one apiece and largely made up for the defenseman’s outburst and three-penalty performance from the night prior.

With 6:16 left in the game and the score still even, the Badgers were assessed a penalty for too many players on the ice. The boneheaded mistake would soon prove costly, as SCSU’s Kyler Kupka buried home the deciding power play goal 14 seconds later to put the Huskies on top, 2-1. 

Wisconsin received one last chance to tie the game less than a minute later after SCSU's Jack Peart was sent to the penalty box for tripping. The Badgers – as has been the case for much of the season – were unable to convert, making them 1-12 (8.3%) on power plays over their first two series.

“I thought we played an unbelievable game tonight, defensively and offensively,” McClellan said. “But that's one of those games that just didn't go your way.”

Following the disheartening 2-1 loss and winless start to the season, Wisconsin will hope to find their way into the win column next week when they take on Minnesota Duluth on the road. These contests are slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22.

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