Consecutive series against recent Division 1 newcomers Long Island University and Lindenwood were must-win games for the Wisconsin Badgers (6-8-0, 0-6-0 Big Ten). Though it wasn’t always pretty, UW took care of business, sweeping the Lions (4-10-0 Independent) at home.
An own goal was not enough to sink the resurgent Badgers, who came roaring back in Friday’s contest to defeat the Lions, 4-3.
The visitors wasted little time before notching their first score of the night at 1:42 in the opening period. Lindenwood’s Andy Willis and Caleb Price employed a seamless give-and-go in the offensive zone, with the latter sneaking the puck past UW goaltender Kyle McClellan from close range to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.
Wisconsin promptly responded with a goal of their own less than two minutes later. Moments after defenseman Mike Vorlikcy’s shot from the point went wide, forward Zach Urdahl grabbed the rebound in the right circle and fired it home. The goal, which evened the contest at one apiece, was Urdahl’s third in three games.
The Badgers claimed their first lead of the night later in the period. Taking swift advantage of a Lindenwood giveaway, UW’s Liam Malmquist connected with teammate Brock Caufield, who buried a one-timer into the back of the net with 6:13 left in the first.
Lindenwood’s Drew Kuzma returned the favor halfway through the second period. Consecutive fortunate bounces off teammate Ryan Finnegan’s skates directed the puck in front of the net, where Kuzma roofed it in to equalize the score, 2-2.
Despite outshooting the Lions 20-3 in the second period, the Badgers skated off the ice in a tie after being held scoreless through the middle frame. Disaster quickly struck once they returned for the third period.
UW’s Jack Horbach kickstarted the calamity less than two minutes into the third, drawing a slashing penalty on Lindenwood’s Joe Prouty. Wisconsin was able to retain possession, prompting Badgers head coach Tony Granato to pull McClellan for an extra attacker on the delayed penalty.
Following several short passes, the puck eventually found its way to the stick of Daniel Laatsch in the neutral zone. The defenseman sent it back into his own zone, but there were no teammates in the vicinity to prevent it from coasting into the vacant net for an own goal.
“The guys made the right play trying to go back with it,” Granato said of the costly mistake. “We just missed the pass and it went into our net. Something like that happens and you're like, ‘Oh my gosh, seriously, can anything else go wrong?’”
Instead of dwelling on the boneheaded error, the Badgers capitalized on two power plays later in the third period to reclaim the lead.
Wisconsin’s Corson Ceulemans corralled a loose puck in the slot and netted a power play goal at 9:02 in the period to tie the game, 3-3. The scoring effort was a nice return for the defenseman, who had missed the prior three contests with a head injury.
Tyson Jugnauth capped off the Badgers’ scoring barrage with 7:04 left in the third. Following precise feeds by Caufield and Ceulemans, the freshman reeled the puck back from the point and wristed it past the Lindenwood goalie’s glove. Jugnauth’s goal — the first of his career — was all the additional scoring the Badgers needed to secure the hard-fought 4-3 victory.
Saturday night bore a far more comfortable victory for Wisconsin, as the Badgers dismantled the Lions, 5-1, to claim their fourth straight win.
Senior Owen Lindmark got UW on the board first at 6:46 in the opening period. With Wisconsin down a man following a Malmquist hooking penalty, Horbach wrangled the puck from two Lindenwood skaters behind the Lions’ net and dished it out front to Lindmark. The forward did the rest, firing a shot past goalie Matt Ladd for the sixth short-handed goal of his career — the most among all active players.
Wisconsin added to their lead with 4:38 left in the second period thanks to freshman Cruz Lucius. Just as a UW power play ended, forward Charlie Stramel fed Lucius at the top of the right circle and positioned himself in front of the net. The screen proved effective, with Lucius’ shot finding the top corner to put the Badgers up, 2-0.
A flurry of penalties assessed to both sides during the concluding minutes of the period resulted in a four-on-three Wisconsin power play, which the Badgers swiftly capitalized on. Ceulemans received a pass from Lucius on the left side and hammered home a one-timer, extending Wisconsin’s lead to three.
The Badgers found themselves with yet another four-on-three power play late in the third and once again turned the advantage into a score. Lucius recorded his second goal of the night, utilizing forward Carson Bantle as a screen and wristing the puck in with 5:13 left in the third.
A power play goal by Lindenwood several minutes later bore little impact, as Bantle immediately responded with an additional score — his first of the season — propelling the Badgers to a dominant 5-1 victory.
“Let's be serious: for the chances that we've had, it's nice to see a few of them go in for us,” Granato said following the win.
Wisconsin will face a far tougher opponent in Michigan when they return from Thanksgiving break. Contests are scheduled for 7 p.m on Friday, Dec. 2 and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3.