The No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team defeated the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines Friday and Saturday night at the Kohl Center in Madison to extend their win streak to six games.
The Badgers continue to exceed expectations and are now 9-1-0 overall and undefeated in the Big Ten with four wins — the first two of which came last weekend against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Their start marks Wisconsin’s best this century, with the next-best start to a season coming in the 1999-2000 season when the team started 10-1-0.
The Badgers will likely climb the rankings again and should take Michigan’s No. 4 spot, but look for them to be a strong contender for the top three spots as well.
Badgers pull away late in razor-wire games
Period one of game one was turbulent for both teams throughout. Odd-man rushes, quality opportunities on both ends and four goals on 20 shots made for a dynamic period. The Badgers took the lead, after which the Wolverines tied it. The Badgers went up again before the Wolverines tied it again to end the period at 2-2.
The Badgers controlled the majority of the second period but gave away a few too many odd-man rushes and one-on-one opportunities to the Wolverines. Kyle McClellan did all he could to bail out his defensemen on several great opportunities. Eventually, Michigan’s Frank Nazar III capitalized off a rebound on an odd-man rush to take the game to 3-2.
The Badgers lost their grip on the period from there, and a typically unremarkable shot from Michigan’s Gavin Bridnley found its way past McClellan, who was screened by a scrum of players from both teams right in front of him.
The Badgers managed to get the game back to 4-3 with five minutes to play in the second after Cruz Lucius found an open hole in the slot on the power play to put one past Michigan’s goaltender Jake Barczewski.
The third period was the most balanced of the game, and 10 minutes in, both teams had solid looks on goal but failed to capitalize.
With under five minutes left in the game and eight seconds left on a two-minute power play, the Badgers tied the game up at 4-4. Simon Tassy got a pass wide-open left of the slot and beat Barczewski with a powerful one-timer.
Just 30 seconds later, the Badgers scored the game-winner, igniting a packed Kohl Center. Jack Horbach sent a deep pass from his defensive zone to Tyson Dyck, who was waiting at the blue line. He passed it across the ice to a wide-open Owen Lindmark, who beat Barczewski one-on-one for his second goal of the night and the game-winner in game one.
The Badgers struck first in game two after Carson Bantle got a shot through the legs that Barczewski failed to freeze. Wisconsin maintained their lead for the rest of the first period.
The game remained close throughout the second period, and the Badgers took a 1-0 lead into the third period. A minute into the third period, Michigan’s Garrett Schifsky finally found the net to tie the game.
With a minute and a half left in the game, Michigan challenged a call that the puck had found the net before it had been knocked off its pegs. Replays were far from conclusive, and having used their timeout earlier, Michigan was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for delay of game.
In an equally electric moment as the night before, the Badgers scored the game-winning goal with less than ten seconds on the clock. Cruz Lucius took the initial shot on Barczewski, and Carson Bantle put in the rebound. The puck slid under the Michigan goaltender right into the lap of Mathieu De St. Phalle for the goal.
Badgers power-play prowess and tenacity push the team past Michigan
The Badgers power play stood out both nights as one of the best components of this new-era team. They scored four goals on 10 power play opportunities and have now scored power play goals in five straight games.
Game one and two were completely different in terms of their dynamic, but Badgers head coach Mike Hastings identified a few standout performances.
“Carson Bantle made a significant contribution to our group since day one. One as a hockey player, but two as a human being.” Hastings said in a press conference after game two. “Matty De St. Phalle, our leading scorer, has a tendency to continue to [excel] day in and day out. He’s become an ‘everydayer,’ so I’m glad that they’re wearing our jersey.”
Hastings also commended Horbach, who contributed two assists in game one, for being one of the leading players on the bench.
“We pride ourselves right now on being a hockey school,” Tassy said after game one. “I love all the other sports, but I think Wisconsin’s a hockey school and we showed it tonight. That’s not a shot at any other sports teams,” Tassy added.
The Badgers now get a week off before they head to Michigan State on Nov. 17 for a two-game series.
Ian Wilder is a current features writer and former state politics reporter for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.