The Badgers (10-7-1) didn’t miss a beat after nearly a month-long break, as they swept Michigan State in their two-game home series this weekend.
Game 1: Wisconsin 5, Michigan State 1
With sophomore captain Luke Kunin sitting out the contest after captaining Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championship and leading them to a gold medal, the Badgers looked to quickly get back in the swing of things following their 26-day break.
This re-acclimation process did not take long, as the Badgers snatched a quick 2-0 lead with goals from junior forwards Jason Ford and Cameron Hughes. Although the Spartans would respond quickly after Hughes’ goal, the Badgers’ Will Johnson would go on to re-establish the two-goal lead just minutes into the second period.
Following Johnson’s goal, the Badgers never looked back on their path to an extremely promising 5-1 victory. The following tallies were added by defenseman Jake Linhardt and forward Max Zimmer.
The win wouldn’t have been possible without the consistently reliable play from freshman goaltender Jack Berry, who notched 25 saves on his way to the win. Coach Tony Granato seemed upbeat after the tilt, saying that although the team was “a little sloppy at times and a little bit rusty,” he still “thought they (we) were good”.
Game 2: Wisconsin 5, Michigan State 1
The second game of the series was marked by the return of captain Luke Kunin, in addition to a significant milestone for the program. Not only were the Badgers able to duplicate their performance on Friday against a Big Ten rival, but their victory also marked their 200th total in front of the home fans at the Kohl Center, where the team has been playing since 1998.
Seamus Malone got the Badgers started just 30 seconds into the first, as he snuck a shot over the Michigan State goaltender’s shoulder. Michigan State would then respond, with Carson Gatt evening the score in the first.
With the score tied, the Badgers needed someone to step up. The leadership came from the person who most would expect, as the recently-returned captain Kunin tallied two goals in a three-minute span during the second period. This essentially broke the game open, with Peter Tischke and Matt Ustaski adding tallies in the final period.
The second half of the series was significant for another reason, as it marked the awaited return of sophomore goaltender Matt Jurusik, who had been sidelined since November due to a nagging injury. He stopped 23-of-24 shots during his solid performance that led to the second rout for the Badgers in as many nights.
The team is off for a weekend, and then returns to action at the Kohl Center as they host rival Minnesota on January 20th and 21st.