The No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team won and tied games against the Lindenwood Lions on Friday and Saturday.
The Badgers brought a nine-game win streak into the series and extended it to 10 after a win in game one. The streak improved to 11 undefeated streak to 11 with a tie in game two against Lindenwood. However, the Lions brought a 3-13-2 record and a seven-game losing streak into the series. Lindenwood’s last win was Nov. 17, when they beat Long Island University 3-0.
Game one started slow for the Badgers, and Lions’ goaltender Trent Burnham shocked the Badgers early with two highlight-reel, full-stretch glove saves. The Badgers managed to take full control of the game from there as Quinn Finley opened scoring and Cruz Lucius got the power-play goal later in the period.
The Badgers put two more goals past the Lions in period two with another power-play goal at the hands of Carson Bantle. Finley scored his second goal of the night a minute and a half later.
The game remained at 4-0 for most of the third period as a skirmish led to players from each team being ejected from the game. That rowdiness and other penalties led to a total of 21 penalty minutes for the Badgers and 22 minutes for the Lions in the third period alone. Lindenwood didn’t convert on any of the subsequent 5-on-3, 4-on-3 or 5-on-4 power play opportunities.
In a mystical moment with just 35 seconds to play, Finley completed the hat trick on a one-on-one opportunity. Finley moved up to the second line both games and played his first games back in the lineup after winning the gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.
“He’s a guy that can really go, he can get up and skate and he can put defensemen on their heels,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Hastings said of Finley after game one. “From the time that he got back, I think he’s playing with a little bit more confidence.”
Kyle McClellan posted his sixth shutout of the season coming off a rough outing last week against the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish, where he allowed four goals. The Badgers outshot the Lions 43-19 in game one, and though 19 saves may feel light for a shutout, McClellan certainly earned it when he had to.
“You gotta bounce back after a game like that,” McClellan said. “Getting my feet settled early has helped me a lot this year, and the guys stepped up in front of me too, so I think it was a good team effort and glad we got it done.”
McClellan leads the nation in shutouts, save percentage, goals-against average and win percentage for goaltenders with more than 10 games played. For his effort, he’s joined 31 other goaltenders on the watchlist for the Mike Richter Award.
Game two played out differently for the Badgers. They found the lead early in the first period on a Lucius power-play goal, but Lindenwood equalized within a couple of minutes. Lindenwood controlled play for a considerable amount of time afterward.
The Lions hit the post a few times before Caige Sterzer capitalized on a rebound to give the Lions a 2-1 lead halfway through the second period. Lindenwood carried its lead until Owen Lindmark scored the equalizer halfway through the third period.
Lindmark clutched a second time to give the Badgers a 3-2 lead halfway through the third period, but the lead was short-lived as Lindenwood equalized with five minutes to play.
The Badgers missed several close opportunities in overtime, and the game was officially recorded as a tie.
“I think there’s a lot of positives to take away from our little win streak here, and there’s no better time to start a new one than now,” Lindmark said after game two. “As long as we learn from what happened tonight and use that as motivation, fuel and hunger going forward, I’m not worried at all.”
The Badgers walked away with a symbolic win in the form of a shootout held after overtime was completed. However, the shootout result doesn’t influence NCAA pairwise standings.
“We’ve got 12 left, so our journey continues,” Hastings said after the game. “It doesn’t feel like a win. It’s a tie ballgame; the biggest thing is it’s a learning experience.”
Badgers defenseman contributed offensively in the series, notching assists on six of eight total goals between both games. The Badgers outshot the Lions 54-24 in game two, but both teams only tacked on three goals.
“It is hard, as you saw tonight, to score in college hockey five-on-five. You need everyone chipping in,” Hastings said of his defenders. “When they do their job, it makes the game a whole lot easier for everybody else.”
William Gramme started over McClellan in game two. Despite allowing three goals, Gramme is still undefeated with an overall 3-0-1 goaltending record.
With the Badgers’ games out of conference, the Michigan State Spartans retook a one-point lead over the Badgers in the Big Ten with both teams having played 12 games. The Badgers get a two-week break before they head to Yost Ice Arena to take on the University of Michigan Wolverines.
The Badgers will return to Madison to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Feb. 2 and 3.
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.