The No. 17 Badgers entered the Kohl Center on Friday night as one of the hottest teams in college hockey, coming off of five-straight Big Ten wins. On the flipside, Penn State came into the building on a cold-spell, falling from their No. 1 national ranking to nearly being outside of the top 10 in just a couple of weeks. However, the roles were reversed completely during the two games of this significant series, in which the Nittany Lions rolled to back-to-back wins over the Badgers in a weekend sweep (6-3, 5-3).
Coach Granato reflected on the disappointing series by stating that it was “a weekend to learn from. We can’t say, well we can’t say we ‘should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.’ We didn’t have chances to win games this series.”
This marks the first time all season that Granato acknowledged that the team was simply beaten by a better group. Captain Luke Kunin mentioned that although the difference may not have been purely talent-based, the Nittany Lions “wanted it more than we did, and I think it (that) showed. That’s unacceptable for our group.”
The back-to-back losses drop Wisconsin out of a tie for first place in the Big 10 with Minnesota. Sitting in second place in the Big Ten with eight games remaining, it feels as though the Badgers are once again being faced with a season-defining test.
With such a young core group, it is impossible to tell how they will deal with the adversity of a demoralizing late season series loss. However, if the play of the young Badgers earlier in the season serves as an indicator of what to come, there is no telling how high this group can climb in the rankings.
The young group still has eight conference games remaining, in which they will face No. 12 Ohio State, No. 5 Minnesota, No. 10 Penn State, and rival Michigan all in a four-week stretch before beginning Big Ten Tournament play in mid-March.
- Do not panic! The answers from both Jurusik and Kunin following the losses when asked what exactly happened could not have been more promising to the average Badger fan. Both players echoed Granato’s sentiment that they simply did not have it this weekend, and will continue to keep their nose to the grindstone.
- Goalie situation is a good problem to have. Although both Jurusik and Berry picked up losses in the series, each of the two are in the top five in save percentage in the entire Big 10. The only problem could potentially come during the Big 10 tournament, when Granato finally has to choose one of the two to put between the pipes when it’s either win-or-go-home.
- Be ready for a bounce back. Sophomore goaltender Matt Jurusik said following the team’s performance on Saturday that he feels the team needs to “reset a little bit mentally.” Jurusik continued, stating that “we need to realize some weekends aren’t going to go our way.” Considering the past few weekends, it would have been foolish to believe that the Badgers could keep up their rampant pace. This weekend could potentially help the team build character, and hopefully propel them into their first NCAA tournament since 2014.
Catch the Badgers in action next weekend as they take on the Michigan Wolverines at the Kohl Center. The series is part of the university’s annual white-out, so everyone is encouraged to wear white to the games at 8 p.m. CT on Friday and 7 p.m. CT on Saturday.