Over the weekend, Wisconsin men’s hockey split a two-game series with No. 7 Minnesota, losing in overtime 4-3 on Friday, but escaping with a 5-3 win on Saturday. There’s a lot to take note of in the wake of this important series.
This Wisconsin team has a confidence, a swagger, that we haven’t seen on the ice in a long time. The team leaves the locker room believing they can win every game. Wisconsin trailed at the end of the first period in both games, 2-0 and 2-1 respectively. In both games, the Badgers roared back in the second period – to tie the game on Friday and take the lead on Saturday. But more than just scoring, the Badgers were swarming the No. 7 Gophers. Minnesota was playing on their heels and Wisconsin was making them pay.
Additionally, the Badgers have the offensive firepower to score and score in bunches. This trait was especially prevalent Saturday night when Wisconsin scored four goals in about 10 minutes of gameplay to go from being down 2-1 to being up 5-2. Watching this team play with the speed and precision passing they showcased against Minnesota should put the rest of the Big Ten on notice.
While Wisconsin hockey is trending upward, that doesn’t mean this weekend was perfect. In the weekend’s second game, Minnesota scored two first period goals off atrocious turnovers at the defensive blue line. One of the golden rules of hockey is that if the puck is within 10 feet of the defensive blue line in your possession, there is no excuse for not getting the puck out of the zone. Additionally, while Wisconsin dominated parts of the game Saturday, there were long stretches both nights where the Badger defense looked lost in their own zone.
What this means for the fans, though, is that it’s time to get excited about Wisconsin Badgers hockey again. The effect of Tony Granato can be felt throughout the Kohl Center as fans have a reason to go to games again. This weekend wasn’t perfect, but there is a lot of positivity to take away from an overtime loss and commanding win against rival and perennial power Minnesota.