MADISON — The Badgers welcomed No. 15 Omaha to the Kohl Center over the weekend, splitting the series and moving to 7-6-1 on the season.
Wisconsin (7-5-0) vs. #15 Omaha (6-5-2)
The puck dropped Friday night and the Badgers immediately went on the attack. Ryan Wagner gave the Badgers the start they wanted, scoring the first goal of the series after receiving a pass from Cameron Hughes behind the net and taking the puck to the front of the net.
The Badgers would then go cold, giving up three goals to Omaha in the period, including a shorthanded goal with two minutes to go in the first.
“If you get on your heels against a team with good offensive players, they’re going to expose you like they did,” Coach Tony Granato said after the game.
The team would fight back though, not allowing a goal the rest of the game. The Badgers only allowed a total of 15 shots on goal the rest of the game, and Jack Berry was there to swallow up those chances.
Grant Besse cut the deficit to one with 4:00 to play in the second, after screening the Omaha goaltender and tipping in a Jake Linhart shot from the point.
“(Grant) Besse is known for making plays as opposed to being the guy in front of the net,” said Granato. “But he knew the importance of creating some traffic in front of the net.”
The Badgers would ultimately tie the game in the third period. Peter Tischke grabbed the puck off a faceoff and slotted it past Weninger for his first goal of the season, and his first collegiate goal.
No other goals were scored in the game that finished with a 3-3 score after overtime. The Badgers went on to win in the shootout but by rule, the game went down in the books as a tie.
A big point of emphasis for Granato’s Badgers in the comeback was bearing down defensively.
“I love the fact that in the second period on their power play we stuffed a lot of shots where we just ate them. That shows the courage, one, and the commitment, two, to keep it out of our net. That’s when I felt really good about our team.”
Captain Luke Kunin was happy with the team’s response.
“It wasn’t the start we wanted, but the guys in there did most of the talking and we took it upon ourselves to go out and play the way we know how to play. When we do things like that, teams can’t hang with us, as you saw there in the second and third.”
Registering an impressive total of 50 shots on goal in the game, the Badgers looked to be more consistent in their strong play on both ends of the ice.
Wisconsin (7-5-1) vs. #15 Omaha (7-5- 3)
The Badgers had another rough first period Saturday night in the second game of the back-to-back. The Badgers got off to a slow start, giving up the game’s first goal only 55 seconds into the contest.
“It is tough, obviously, we want better starts here,” said Granato after the game.
The team would give up another early in the second before turning things around like they had the night before. Trailing 2-0, Besse got the Badgers on the board unassisted on the power play. A night after going 0-for-6 with the man advantage, the Badgers’ fortune seemed to be turning.
Late in the period, Luke Kunin tied the score at two, scoring off a pass from Cameron Hughes.
In the third period, the Badgers gave up another early goal. Colin Grannary scored to retake the lead for the Mavericks, which they would hold onto for the next eight minutes. With under 10 minutes to play in the game however, Jason Ford tied it up once more for the Badgers. His power play strike was his second goal of the season and the Badgers’ second on the power play Saturday night.
Luke Kunin gave the Badgers their first lead of the series just a minute later, scoring from Cullen Hurley and Tim Davison. It was the final surge by the Badgers before both the offense and defense both sputtered to a halt.
The Badgers would give up four goals unanswered and ultimately lost the game 7-4, despite outshooting their opponent 44-27.
Coach Granato, as well as captain Luke Kunin pointed to momentum swings and lack of consistency as keys in the loss.
“We got a goal and felt good,” said Kunin after the game. “We felt like we lost the game in two or three shifts, just like that… We left (Jack) Berry out to dry tonight.”
Granato has a lot of praise for his team, though and expects a lot from them as the season progresses: “I think now we just have realize this is an urgent point of our season where we’re going to decide whether we want to be a good team or we just want to play 500 hockey. I think our team is capable of doing some really special things moving forward.”
The Badgers are in a good spot to produce, and now it’s all about consistency. We’ll see how they fare in their first Big Ten matchup, as they head to Ann Arbor next weekend to face the Michigan Wolverines.
1st Star: Austin Ortega (3G, 2A)
2nd Star: Evan Weninger (47 saves, .940 SV%)
3rd Star: Peter Tischke (1G, 1A, +3)