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For the first time since the 2013-’14 season, the Wisconsin Badgers had legitimate NCAA Tournament expectations heading into their season. Despite their talent and promise, though, Wisconsin finished with a disappointing 14-19-3-0 record and out of the NCAA Tournament field after a first-round exit from the Big Ten Tournament.
“We don't want to think about what’s happened in the past. It’s a clean slate.”
In Wisconsin’s opening game of its first series against Minnesota, the Badgers dominated the Gophers for almost the entire game, outscoring them 4-1 over 49 minutes and 34 seconds of the 60 minute contest. But for a 10 minute and 26 second stretch in the second period, Minnesota scored four unanswered goals and stole a 5-4 win from Wisconsin, who deserved a victory for its stellar play throughout the majority of the game.
Wisconsin and Michigan are both in full desperation mode. No. 18 Wisconsin (7-8-2-1 Big Ten, 13-12-3-0 Overall) will likely need to go around 4-2 over its last six games and have a pretty successful Big Ten Tournament run in order to make the postseason. No. 20 Michigan will need to do even better than that over its last eight contests if it hopes to complete its rebound from a weak 2016-’17 campaign and make a surprise run at the NCAA Tournament.
Hockey is vastly different than any other sport. It’s remarkably fast, uniquely physical and fiercely emotional. The flow to the game is graceful and captivating, and it demands fortitude. But one of the most notable aspects of hockey that differentiates the game from any other team sport — an element that often gets overlooked by fans and is a primary cause of those more tangible distinctions — is the amount of time that each player spends on the ice at a time.
No. 18 Wisconsin (7-8-2 Big Ten, 13-12-3 overall) vs. No. 14 Penn State (6-8-3-2, 13-11-3).
For the majority of Wisconsin’s games this season, the story has been this: UW played well, but it still couldn’t win. Often, the Badgers would play solid hockey — and even outplay their opponents — but would ultimately come up short despite stretches of smart, dominant hockey.
After splitting a home series against Michigan State last weekend, Wisconsin has found itself in a position where it needs positive results. With inconsistency pushing the Badgers outside the top-16 NCAA Tournament pool, UW needs to improve quickly if it hopes to make the postseason for the first time in since 2013-‘14. But they can’t just improve: They have to win. And this weekend, they have to do that against the best team in the nation.
“I don’t think the work ethic was where it needed to be. They obviously wanted it more. It was on us. We didn’t bring what we had to bring. We have seen this week after week where we don’t bring the work ethic, and it needs to change tomorrow night.”
No. 18 Wisconsin (4-7-2 Big Ten, 10-11-3 overall) vs. Michigan State (3-9-1-1, 9-13-1)
The transition from high school or juniors to college hockey can be incredibly difficult, even for the most gifted players. The speed, physicality and talent in the college game is continuously increasing, and playing at a high level as a freshman amidst a transition to the style of play and daily routine is both demanding and ambitious.
Outside No. 2 Notre Dame, which is still undefeated in Big Ten play through 10 games, the rest of the conference has been unpredictable, with each team having major fluctuations in their play. At points, many of the other Big Ten teams have looked like championship contenders, and at other times like fringe tournament teams with obvious gaps in their play.
With No. 4 Notre Dame traveling to the Kohl Center, Wisconsin was looking for what would be its best win so far this season. Ultimately, the Badgers didn’t earn that, but UW did play its best hockey of the season.
No. 12 Wisconsin (4-3-1 Big Ten, 10-7-2 overall) against No. 4 Notre Dame (8-0-0, 14-3-1).
With recent surprise losses to 1-12-1 St. Lawrence, a Michigan State team that is 1-4-1 in the Big Ten, and 5-5-2 Mercyhurst, the Badgers have dropped from No. 5 in the nation to No. 14 and could easily be feeling the pressure of an upcoming weekend trip to No. 7 Minnesota (3-4-1 Big Ten, 9-6-1 overall).
Another weekend, another underwhelming result.
After Wisconsin's 7-3 win over Michigan Friday night, Ethan Levy brings you three keys prior to the second game of the series:
Coming into this season, the Badgers felt like they had a legitimate shot to win a national championship. A big reason for those high expectations: incoming graduate transfer goaltender Kyle Hayton.
Michigan resembles 2016-’17 Badgers, looks to add to surprising Big Ten run this weekend against Wisconsin
Coming into this season, many thought the Big Ten was going to primarily be a five-team race between Minnesota, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State. Accordingly, Michigan and Michigan State, after poor seasons last year, were largely considered outcasts with little chance to make an impact in a deep conference.