The Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team won both games against the Ohio State University (OSU) Buckeyes on Friday and Saturday.
The Badgers’ sweep brought their all-time series record against Ohio State back to a tie at 26-26-5. They’ll have a chance to retake the lead when they travel to Columbus in February.
In just eight games of conference play, the Badgers have matched their six wins in the Big Ten from the end of last season. With the win on Saturday, the Badgers take second in the Big Ten with 18 points. Wisconsin narrowly trails the Michigan State Spartans, who also have 18 points but possess the head-to-head advantage against the Badgers.
Friday’s game was a lot closer than the 3-0 scoreline might let on. The Badgers took an early lead as Zach Schulz put a rebound past Buckeye goaltender Logan Terness for his first NCAA goal.
Most of the plays made in game one were defensive. Kyle McClellan walked away with a shutout on 29 saves, his third of the season and the team's fourth. William Gramme started on Saturday Nov. 25 to shut out Alaska Anchorage.
“[We’re] feeding off of each other, we got a friendship going,” McClellan said after game one, dismissing any idea of a rivalry forming between the netminders. “It’s battling each and every day and as a duo so it’s been great. Obviously, we got Benny [Garity], too, so it’s more of a friendly battle each and every day that makes it fun to come to the rink.”
The Badgers also posted a 22:29 block-to-save ratio. That means for almost every shot McClellan had to save, there was a defenseman sprawling out to stop the puck before it could get to him. Badgers captain Joe Palodichuk led the team with five blocks.
Head coach Mike Hastings noticed the contributions from his defensemen.
“From day one, we talked about trying to be selfless, and I think one of the most selfless acts you can do as a teammate is make sure a puck doesn't get to your goaltender. Kudos to our defensive core for that,” Hastings said.
The Badgers sealed game one with two goals in the third period. Christian Fitzgerald scored his second goal of the season and the second point — with an assist in period one — of the game 13 minutes in the third. Cruz Lucius, who influenced the game every time he was on the ice, sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 30 seconds to play.
Saturday’s game was a different story. Six Badgers scored six goals to take down the Buckeyes 6-1. Two of them came on the power play, which had been missing the night before, and Owen Lindmark found the net shorthanded.
Kyle McClellan was within reach of a shutout again, but OSU scored a power-play goal to get one on the scoreboard this weekend. Nonetheless, McClellan received Big Ten Hockey’s first start of the week honors for his contributions to the series.
“It's hard not to play the right way when you've got a guy back there playing the way that we're playing right now,” Hastings said of McClellan after the series. “But I do think knowing that we have him back there… the guys don't take it for granted and don’t put him out there and put him on his own little spot. I think [the] guys did a really good job of that tonight.”
The Badgers’ next game is Friday at the Kohl Center as they finish the six-game home stretch with two more Big Ten games against Penn State. Puck drop for game one is at 8 p.m.
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.