Wisconsin coach Tony Granato’s hot seat has reached a cardinal red shade after the Badgers (2-8-0, 0-6-0 Big Ten) were swept by the Michigan State Spartans (6-3-1, 2-1-1) on the road.
The issues that have plagued Wisconsin’s disappointing season thus far reared their ugly head in East Lansing Friday night as the Badgers fell to Michigan State, 5-0.
Erik Middendorf got the Spartan’s scoring barrage kickstarted at 11:58 in the first period. MSU’s Cole Krygier skated the puck behind the Badgers net and dished it to teammate Justin Jallen in the crease. Though Jallen’s shot was stopped by UW goalie Jared Moe, the miss was swiftly rebounded by Middendorf and buried into the back of the net.
Middendorf, who hadn’t recorded a goal this season in eight games entering play, wasted little time before netting his second score of the night. Moments after Wisconsin lost the ensuing center ice faceoff, Michigan State dumped the puck into the Badgers’ defensive zone. MSU’s Matt Basgall was the first man to it and fed Middendorf, who redirected the puck into the goal just 15 seconds after his first score to put Michigan State up 2-0.
Wisconsin finished the period without allowing any more damage, despite Michigan State holding sizable advantages in both faceoffs (14-7) and shots on goal (20-11). Seconds after the closing horn sounded, MSU’s Zach Dubinsky was assessed a five minute penalty and ejected for grabbing UW forward Charlie Stramel’s face mask in a quarrel.
The Badgers began the second period with a one-man advantage but were unable to capitalize on the golden opportunity, amassing only five shots on goal. Wisconsin returned to the power play less than a minute after the major concluded — thanks to an interference penalty issued to MSU’s Viktor Hurtig — and were once again unable to find the back of the net.
Michigan State had far greater success on the power play, netting a PPG with 6:37 left in the second period. Shortly after UW forward Jack Gorniak’s shot ricocheted off the post on a short-handed breakaway, Middendorf tapped in a one-timer at the other end for his third goal of the night.
A delay of game committed by the Spartans at 15:39 increased Wisconsin's total minutes on the power play in the second period to nine. As the one-man advantage drew to a close, UW junior Mathieu De St. Phalle skated down the ice on a breakaway but shanked the shot, thus squandering the scoring opportunity.
It didn’t take long for Michigan State to retaliate with a shot of their own. 11 seconds after killing the penalty, MSU’s Jagger Joshua dished the puck to teammate Tanner Kelly, who finished the two-on-one rush to extend the Spartans lead to 4-0.
The final score came off the stick of none other than Middendorf, whose four goals on the night matched the total number of goals the Badgers had scored in their last four games including Friday.
“We made mistakes that hurt us,” Granato said following the 5-0 loss and second consecutive shutout. “They forechecked hard and played well. But we've got to find ways to score goals. And the power play has to be one of those situations where it can become productive, not close.”
Saturday’s contest bore little improvement for the Badgers as Michigan State jumped out to a commanding lead minutes into the first period.
Shortly after Stramel was sent to the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct, MSU’s Miroslav Mucha chipped in a rebound from close range at 3:48. Joshua doubled the Spartans lead less than a minute later, corralling the puck after it hit him in the chest and firing it home from the slot. Tanner Kelly additionally got in on the fun with 7:34 left in the first to put Michigan State up 3-0.
UW’s Brock Caufield ensured the Badgers wouldn’t be shut out for a third consecutive game, finding the back of the net on a power play at 13:43 in the period. Freshman Cruz Lucius worked the puck up along the boards and found Caufield at the top of the circle. The forward uncorked a one-timer to put the Badgers on the board, 3-1, and end their scoring drought at 190:02.
Instead of building on the goal and newfound momentum, the Badgers shot themselves in the foot — quite literally. Krygier’s centering pass from behind Wisconsin’s goal careened off UW defenseman Anthony Kehrer’s skate and into the back of the net to build onto MSU’s 4-1 lead in the first.
MSU forward Tiernan Shoudy’s goal at 1:51 in the third period capped off the final 5-1 score, sinking Wisconsin to an abysmal 0-6 in league play for the first time in the conference affiliation-era.
“I do feel a little bit bad for them,” Granato said of his players, who’ve mustered just two goals in their last four games. “They did a lot of things right. The puck at their net doesn't seem to want to go in. The puck at our net, when they get chances, they went in.”
The Badgers will hope to turn their season around when they return to the Kohl Center to take on Long Island University, with contests slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11 and Saturday, Nov. 12.