The Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team upset the No. 17 Michigan Tech Huskies, winning both games of the series Friday and Saturday in Houghton, Michigan.
The games marked the Badgers’ first wins against ranked opponents this season. The Badgers are now 5-1-0 after their first six games — the best start to a season for the Badgers since 2004-05. The Badgers started 2-4-0 in each of the last two seasons.
The Badgers won game one Friday by a 4-2 margin, though the scoreline lightly flatters them as their fourth goal was scored on an e mpty net.
The game started quiet, with no goals coming in the first period and the two teams neck-and-neck in scoring chances.
That changed just two minutes into the second period as a shot from Tyson Jugnauth hit a couple of players on its way to the net and was deflected in by William Whitelaw past Huskies’ goaltender Blake Pietila, who likely never saw the puck. That marked William Whitelaw’s first NCAA goal and the first point of the season for sophomore Tyson Dyck on the secondary assist.
The Badgers received two penalties before closing out the first period, and Michigan Tech capitalized on both to take a 2-1 lead. It seemed the Huskies would continue their lead into the third period, but a two-on-two opportunity from the Badgers tied the game.
Cruz Lucius passed the puck from near the boards to an open David Silye in the slot, who capitalized on the one-on-one with the goaltender after a nice move to net the tying goal with less than eight seconds to play in the period. Although he’s contributed plenty with four points so far in the season, Friday’s goal marked Silye’s first for the Badgers after transferring from Minnesota State.
The Badgers took the lead off a deflected blue-line shot from Daniel Laatsch. Cruz Lucius sealed the game with an empty net shot at the end of the third period.
In game two, Michigan Tech started the scoring on a power play goal from Logan Pietila.
That was the third and final goal given up by the Badgers’ penalty kill line in the series, who has been otherwise stellar so far this season.
Eight minutes into the second period, the Badgers scored a rare six-on-four goal during a power play, with the extra attacker out on a delayed penalty against the Huskies. This goal came courtesy of Mathieu De St. Phalle, who wristed in the rebound off a long-distance shot and assist from Ben Dexheimer.
Five minutes later, the Badgers took a 2-1 lead as Simon Tassy served a pass to wide-open defenseman Joe Palodichuk. He one-timed it on net past Pietila, who was screened by three of his own men.
After a dominant second period, the Badgers entered the third period on the power play and capitalized within the first minute. Dexheimer found Carson Bantle posted up in front of the net, who took the pass and slotted it in against his former team. The score was Dexheimer’s second assist on the night.
The Badgers widened their lead to 4-1 less than a minute later afterTassy stole the puck on the forecheck and missed above the net. The puck hit the boards and trickled back into the slot for Sawyer Scholl, who sunk the one-timer to score his first NCAA goal.
The Huskies managed one more goal seven minutes into the third period to make the score 4-2. Tyrone Bronte redirected a shot past helpless Badgers goalie Kyle McClellan, who played an overall excellent game and stopped 15 of 17 shots on the night.
The Badgers finished the game with an empty-netter from captain Mike Vorlicky, marking the season-high fifth goal of the game.
Badgers improve all around heading into important Big Ten Matchup
Badgers head coach Mike Hastings has to be happy with the position his team has put themselves in as they prepare to take on the intimidating No. 1 Minnesota Gophers in Minneapolis. The Badgers found themselves in the NCAA rankings for the first time this season, ranking 14th in Monday’s poll.
Wisconsin’s underwhelming areas this season all looked significantly better against the Huskies. The Badgers were 2-of-7 on the power play all weekend, the best percentage so far this season.
De St. Phalle put forward multiple points both nights while Dexheimer, Silye and Tassy put up multiple points in Saturday’s win.
The Badgers were more composed when deciding to shoot the puck and looked for threatening opportunities before releasing it. Wisconsin needed only 22 shots to put in four goals on Friday and put in five goals on 39 shots Saturday.
At this pace of improvement, look for the Badgers to be strong competitors heading into Thursday and Friday’s matchups against their hardest test of the season against the best-in-the-nation Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Ian Wilder is a senior staff writer and current men’s hockey beat reporter for The Daily Cardinal. He’s a former state politics and features reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.