This coming weekend marks potentially the most momentous series that the Wisconsin men’s hockey program has seen in the past three years. As the team looks to solidify their case for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014, they take on a talented Ohio State team at home.
“This weekend is set up as well as we could have hoped at the start of the season,” said Coach Granato.
The fact that the Badgers have made it to this point is, in itself, a victory. Coming off of back-to-back seasons in which the club failed to attain 10 wins, the 2016-2017 season could easily have been categorized as a rebuilding year. However, with the introduction of head coach Tony Granato and assistant coaches Don Granato and Mike Osiecki, the program seemingly found new life overnight.
Although the ultimate goal is to win the NCAA Tournament every year for a program with as rich of a history as Wisconsin, it would be tough to look at the 2016-2017 campaign as anything but an emphatic success regardless of the ultimate outcome. Granato stated in his Monday presser that although the team is hungry for further success, they have “worked very hard to get here.”
The penultimate series at the Kohl Center for the 2016-2017 season also brings forth a tradition that has been recognized for decades: Senior Night. The Badgers will recognize the success of seniors Corbin McGuire, Grant Besse, Aidan Cavallini, Jedd Soleway, and Ryan Breon. Coach Granato himself recalled his own senior night at Wisconsin, stating “I remember it being emotional…I really hope that we can get an energized building to help us get where we want to be.”
The Badgers currently sit in second place in the Big 10 Standings and at No. 16 nationally. Two wins against Ohio State, who is ranked at No. 15, could solidify the Badgers’ tournament résumé if they falter in the Big Ten Tournament. In the end, only time will tell if the Badgers are able to pull off the truly incredible feat of obtaining a tournament bid just one year after the program finished their season 8-19-9.