Weekend Recap vs. Denver

All good things must come to an end. The Wisconsin Men’s Hockey team held on to their undefeated home record for as long as they could, registering some impressive wins and heart-stopping ties along the way. Friday night, the Badgers produced the latter and kept the streak alive, drawing #9 Denver 3-3. But, Saturday night was a different story, as the Pioneers dominated wire-to-wire, and the Badgers fell for the first time at home 6-2.

The Kohl Center crowd could be forgiven if they mistook Friday night’s game for a nasty case of déjà vu, as the Badgers again went down a goal in the first period. DU’s Quentin Shore beat Badger goaltender Matt Jurusik with just under four minutes to play in the first, giving the Pioneers a one goal advantage heading into the intermission despite the box score showing the teams deadlocked at six shots on goal a piece. But just as they have several times already this season, the Badgers increased the pressure in the second period in a big way. Twelve shots on goal in the period yielded tallies from freshman Matthew Freytag, followed by Jedd Soleway, and capped off by freshman Luke Kunin, giving the Badgers a 3-1 going into the third period. With the possibility of another signature upset hanging in the air, UW came out firing yet again in the third, putting twelve shots on goal to Denver’s seven. DU’s Tanner Jaillet was up to the task in goal, however, and his big third period provided DU’s offense with the cover it needed to score twice in the final 6:01 of regulation to force overtime. As one might expect after following this UW team for the first six weeks of the season, it was the Badger defense that dominated the overtime period, surrendering just one shot on goal, which Jurusik turned away. Another scoreless overtime guaranteed another tie for UW, who won the exhibition shootout. Fear not, Badger fans, as we enter conference play, those shootouts will count for an extra point in the Big Ten standings, and the “shootout wins” won’t feel quite so hollow.

Saturday night started poorly for the Badgers, and there was no late-game recovery in the cards. Denver struck just five minutes in, and added another goal a few minutes later to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. The second period saw things get worse for UW, as DU notched a power play goal less than thirty seconds into the second frame, and increase their lead to four goals with a Dylan Gambrell tally twelve minutes later. Down 4-0, the Badgers turned up the heat and started to build some momentum. Tim Davison took advantage of a power play opportunity, and put UW on the board with an absolute rocket under the crossbar with just under three minutes remaining in the second period. Jake Linhart snuck another goal in with forty-eight seconds to go, and all of a sudden the Badgers appeared to be back in it. But the Pioneers put the Badgers away in the third, scoring twice more and shutting down the UW offense en route to a 6-2 win.

Three Stars vs. Denver

Third Star: Patrick Sexton barely appeared on the scoresheet this weekend, but you can bet DU felt his presence on the ice. His highlight-reel hit in the second period on Friday night changed the course of the game for the Badgers, giving them momentum to fuel their three goal run in the second period. The hit was awesome, but slightly reminiscent of former Badger defenseman Jake McCabe’s hit on Minnesota’s Kyle Rau two seasons ago; let’s hope it doesn’t yield the same one-game suspension.

Second Star: Luke Kunin is a scoring machine. The freshman added on to his impressive non-conference resume with a goal on Friday and an assist on Saturday, and registering nine shots on goal for the weekend. I know he’s only a freshman, but the Badgers are going to lean heavily on him to provide a spark offensively during Big Ten play.

First Star: A good facilitator is absolutely invaluable in college hockey, and the Badgers had one this weekend in Adam Rockwood. He led all UW skaters with three assists on the weekend, and made his presence felt on the offensive end. Assisted goals mean the ice is spread, and players are seeing the passing lanes well. Rockwood did a great job of that this weekend, and will look to continue to find UW’s scorers as Big Ten season gets going.

This Week : Off Week

Another week off for UW as non-conference play wraps up around the country. While Saturday night was pretty disappointing, there were bright spots in this series for the Badgers, and hopefully Coach Eaves highlights them in film this week. Positivity is key heading into conference play, and Michigan is a pretty tough task in week one. But who knows, a fired-up UW team went into Sioux Falls and took down North Dakota, who says they can’t do the same in Ann Arbor?