Sconnie Sports Talk

Wisconsin men’s hockey: Swept by Michigan State, Badgers head to Ohio State next


The opponents and settings may change, but the story has stayed mostly the same for the Wisconsin Men’s Hockey team this season.

This week the Badgers (6-15-7) played host to the Spartans of Michigan State (9-20-3), with yet another opportunity to make a statement against a struggling opponent, and make strides (albeit small ones) up the B1G standings. But as has been the pattern practically all season long, UW was unable to take advantage of what appeared to be a golden opportunity.

Friday night saw the Badgers come out firing, and take a 1-0 lead under a minute into the opening period. The red-hot first line of Luke Kunin, Cameron Hughes, and Grant Besse got things going early, as Hughes and Besse assisted Kunin on the game’s opening goal. UW controlled the pace of the game early, getting plenty of looks on offense and limiting Michigan State’s chances effectively. MSU goaltender Jake Hildebrand limited the damage for the Spartans, however, and senior Ryan Keller was able to sneak one past UW’s Matt Jurusik to tie things up. It didn’t take long in the second period for the momentum to swing squarely in Michigan State’s favor, as Dylan Pavlek deflected a John Draeger shot to beat Jurusik again, and give MSU a 2-1 advantage just 44 seconds into the period. The Spartans continued their run a little over two minutes later, as Zach Osburn gathered up a rebound after a Jurusik save and buried it up high to put the visitors up 3-1. Just when it seemed the Badgers would fold, the powerplay unit gave life to the home team, and energy to the Kohl Center crowd. Hildebrand made an initial kick save on a Badger shot, but Will Johnson located the puck in front of the net and scored on the rebound to cut the MSU lead to 3-2. The teams traded penalties for the rest of the period, but the score remained the same heading into the final intermission. The Badgers spent the first minute of the third frame killing off a Grant Besse hooking penalty, but scored shortly after on a shot by Cameron Hughes. Both teams tightened up defensively with the score tied, but the Spartans’ Matt DeBlouw took advantage of empty space in the slot and beat Jurusik with 5:38 to play, recapturing the lead for Michigan State. The Badgers had chances in the game’s final minutes, but could not get anything past Hildebrand, as the Spartans took game one 4-3.

Saturday night proved to be a defensive battle, yielding just three total goals in comparison to Friday night’s seven. Michigan State started the scoring late in the first period, when Michael Ferrantino beat Jurusik on the powerplay to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead. A scoreless second period gave way to the third, in which the Badgers increased the intensity on offense. UW finally broke through when Seamus Malone scored from the slot on a pass from Jedd Soleway, tying things up with just under thirteen minutes remaining. The game seemed destined for overtime until MSU’s Mackenzi MacEachern took over in the final 1:36, scoring the go-ahead goal, and following it up with an empty-netter as insurance. The Spartans completed the sweep with a 3-1 victory.

Three Stars

Third Star: Seamus Malone has had a relatively quiet second half of the season after a hot start, but returned to the box score this weekend with a goal on Saturday night. The freshman has shown flashes of greatness this season, but still has a little growing to do in several aspects of his game. As the season begins to wind down, it’s not too early to look at him as a core member of next year’s offensive leaders.

Second Star: Junior Grant Besse has continued to shine this season, despite lackluster results by his team. Two assists on Friday night further displayed his sometimes-overlooked passing ability. He will have options regarding his playing future next year (Besse’s NHL rights belong to the Anaheim Ducks), but if he returns he will certainly be a national player to watch.

First Star: Luke Kunin. Is there much more that needs to be said? The freshman had a goal and an assist on Friday night, and is clearly the go-to threat on offense alongside Grant Besse. He has the fourth-most points among B1G freshmen, and has proven himself as a leader on this team.

This Week: Ohio State

The Badgers’ homestand has come to a close, as they prepare to head to Columbus this weekend to take on Ohio State. The Buckeyes have dropped to fifth in the B1G, but still hold an eight-point lead over the Badgers, who sit squarely in last place. While UW can’t jump ahead of OSU this weekend, a win would go a long way to lift the spirits of Badger fans who are growing more desperate for success with each deflating loss.