One week after getting a much-needed non-conference sweep at home, the Wisconsin Men’s hockey team (6-13-7) was back in action at the Kohl Center to take on #6 Michigan (18-4-5).

Friday night started with Michigan putting its NHL-talent on display. JT Compher (drafted by Buffalo in 2013) fired a shot off the pad of UW goaltender Matt Jurusik, and Tyler Motte (drafted by Chicago in 2013) put away the rebound just 4:25 into the first period. The Badger offense continued to put pressure on goaltender Steve Racine and the rest of the Wolverine defense, however, and they were rewarded late in the period. After a Michigan slap-shot hit the pipe behind Matt Jurusik, the Badgers took it the other way, with Ryan Wagner sneaking the puck across the line just before the goal was knocked off its moorings by a Michigan defender. After a lengthy review, the play was ruled a goal, giving UW some much-needed momentum heading into the first intermission. The Wolverines would not take long to recapture the energy, however, as sophomore Dexter Dancs took advantage of another rebound in front of Jurusik to give Michigan a 2-1 lead. It was all blue from there, with the Badgers surrendering two more goals in the third period to give Michigan a 4-1 victory.

The most telling stat from Friday night? UW’s top line of freshman Luke Kunin, sophomore Cameron Hughes, and Junior Grant Besse finished the game -3, as compared to UM’s top line which finished at +2. The top three for UW dug in on Saturday night, however, as the Badgers tried to salvage the series. After Michigan opened the scoring courtesy of a Tyler Motte, shorthanded goal late in the first, the top line for the Badgers made it a battle. Luke Kunin scored just 53 seconds into the second period to tie things up for UW. Michigan struck back on a Kyle Connor goal midway through the period, but the Badgers would not end the second with a deficit. Grant Besse found the back of the net with thirteen seconds left in the frame to tie the score at two heading into the second intermission. The fireworks were far from over, as the teams traded goals in the opening minute of the third period. Dexter Dancs appeared to put the Wolverines up for good with just under ten minutes to play, his goal giving Michigan a 4-3 lead. But the Badgers would not go away, and after pulling Jurusik to gain an extra attacker with under a minute to play, it was Luke Kunin who scored to send the game to overtime. After a scoreless OT period, Michigan was victorious in the shootout, securing an extra point in the B1G standings.

Three Stars

Third Star: Matt Jurusik was not at his best all weekend, but he made some huge saves when called upon in key moments. It’s hard for a goalie to keep a clean sheet, especially when facing as many shots as Jurusik does. But his athleticism was on display on Friday night, and his resolve was the story on Saturday. If the Badgers can give him some consistent support, there’s no telling what he can do in his time at UW.

Second Star: Corbin McGuire has been asked to play out of position of late, skating on a defensive pair alongside captain Kevin Schulze. While having a veteran partner like Schulze certainly helps, McGuire has shown flashes of raw talent on defense that might warrant some consideration of a permanent switch in the offseason. He was impressive blocking shots and stopping breakaways this weekend, and his offensive background allows him to be a major blue-line threat on the other end. An impressive weekend all-around for the sophomore.

First Star: One night after being outplayed by Michigan’s top forwards, the first line for the Badgers came back in a big way on Saturday night. While the +1 final line won’t blow away anyone perusing the box score, the combination of Kunin, Hughes, and Besse were responsible for three goals, including Kunin’s last-second effort to send the game into overtime. There is no questioning who the leaders are on this Badger team, and when they play well, so too does the entire team.

This Week

The Badgers return to the Kohl Center on Friday and Saturday to take on Michigan State. Both games are televised on Big Ten Network (well, one is on BTN Plus, but you take what you can get), which gives the Badgers a chance to show their potential for a national audience. If the top line can produce with consistency, and the rest of the team can give Matt Jurusik the support he needs, this could be a great opportunity for UW to grab some points in the B1G.

Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Department.