Weekend recap: Two losses to #12 Michigan

Nobody said it would be easy. Coming off of a non-conference season that showed tons of improvement over last year, there was (and still is, I might add) reason for optimism as the Wisconsin men’s hockey team traveled to Ann Arbor to take on #12 Michigan in the first series of conference play. The result? A blown lead and eventual loss, followed by a hard-fought tie. Not exactly what Badger fans were dreaming of following the euphoria of a certain Wisconsin team’s dramatic victory over a rival from Michigan on Thursday night.

The Badgers started out hot on Friday night, with freshman forward Luke Kunin adding to his impressive totals with a power play goal at 6:28 in the first. Goaltender Matt Jurusik kept the Wolverines off the board with eight saves, allowing UW to carry a one-goal lead into the first intermission. The Badgers kept rolling in the second, adding to their lead with goals by Tim Davison and Will Johnson, but an unfortunately familiar storyline would soon unfold. Just twenty-six seconds later, Michigan’s Dexter Dancs found the net for the first time this season, and the Wolverines picked up the momentum from there. Five of the next six goals would be scored by Michigan, including an empty-netter to seal things with one second left in regulation, as the Badgers saw a three-goal lead disintegrate into a 6-4 loss.

Saturday night appeared to be picking up where Friday had left off, as Michigan scored twice in the games first six minutes, including a shorthanded tally from Justin Selman at 4:38. The Badger power play would redeem itself soon after, with two consecutive goals, both scored by sophomore Ryan Wagner. The scoring wasn’t over for the period, however, as Michigan’s Selman added his second goal of the night to give the Wolverines a 3-2 lead after the first. UW owned a chippy second period, outshooting Michigan 15-11 and scoring three times on goals by Tim Davison, Kevin Schulze, and Matthew Freytag. Badgers Patrick Sexton and Seamus Malone found themselves involved in the penalty box alongside Michigan’s JT Compher and Michael Downing midway through the period, injecting a little bad blood into an already entertaining matchup. The Badgers began the third period with a two-goal lead, and had their sights set on what would have been an impressive series split. The Wolverines had other plans, however, and took back the momentum early in the period. Tyler Motte scored his ninth goal of the season, and JT Compher followed it up with his fifth, tying the game for Michigan. Michael Downing then gave the #12 in the country the lead, with a goal at 10:45. Things were looking grim for the Badgers until Matthew Freytag tied things up with under five minutes to play, forcing overtime. Michigan would take the game’s extra point in the shootout, but the tie guaranteed the Badgers one point for the series.

Three Stars

Third Star: Senior Kevin Schulze came through for the Badgers this weekend, specifically on Saturday night. Schulze was a playmaker on the power-play, assisting Ryan Wagner in the first period and Matthew Freytag in the third, and added an even-strength goal of his own in the second to help the Badgers secure a point for the weekend. His two blocked shots on Friday also deserve proper recognition.

Second Star: Tim Davison was outstanding this weekend, doubling his season point total in just two games against the Wolverines. A goal and an assist on Friday were followed up by another one and one night, giving the sophomore eight points on the season. Scoring defensemen aren’t exactly a rarity, but they are certainly a luxury in college hockey. Having someone like Davison who can give the Badgers some offense from the blue line will serve UW well as the season progresses.

First Star: Sophomore Ryan Wagner just continues to add dimensions to his game. Known as a physical presence coming into the season, Wagner also has eleven points on the season, second only to Grant Besse. Two assists on Friday, as well as a goal and two assists on Saturday show his ability to score even against tough opponents like Michigan. He also demonstrated this weekend that he is capable of stepping up and delivering when perennial leading scorer Grant Besse struggles.

This Weekend: Michigan State

The Badgers are getting their trips to Michigan out of the way early, as they head back to the state to take on the Spartans of Michigan State. The Spartans are struggling, coming off consecutive sweeps at the hands of North Dakota and Penn State. They have also struggled to generate any sort of offense the past two weeks, scoring just five goals in their last four outings. All of this bodes well for UW, who has a chance to launch itself into contention in the Big Ten if they can come away with a sweep in East Lansing.

Photo: UWBadgers.com