The Wisconsin men’s hockey team opened up their season at home this weekend against the Michigan Tech Huskies. Will Johnson got the Badgers on the board early, jamming home a Seamus Malone wraparound after early pressure by the Huskies. Linus Weissbach added to the Badger’s lead five minutes later on the power play. He took a shot, collected his own rebound and fired it top shelf over MTU goalie Munson’s shoulder. Will Johnson and Trent Frederic got credit on the assists.
Michigan Tech got things rolling in the second period, scoring a power play goal at 13:13 in the period. Linus Weissbach had the answer though, sniping a beautiful saucer pass from Ryan Wagner past a sliding Munson. MTU got the last laugh in the second, though as captain Jake Lucchini once again narrowed the margin to one goal.
The third period started slow but turned into a back-and-forth affair as teams traded chances late in the game. The Huskies sent Munson to the bench for a sixth skater with a little under 2:00 to play, but their efforts were to no avail. MTU got a few shots through, but eventually the clock expired after a diving hand block by Peter Tischke. The Badgers walked away with a 3-2 victory, and here are the three main takeaways:
1. Welcome to Madison, Linus
Linus Weissbach made a grand entrance in his Wisconsin debut. The Swede, and Buffalo Sabres 2017 draft pick scored twice, both times showing an elite goal scorer’s mentality.
“Linus had a big impact with his two goals,” said head coach Tony Granato. “That’s something that we’ve seen since we started recruiting him last year. His breakaway speed, his quick hands. He’s certainly a competitor for a little guy. What a great start for him.”
Weissbach was a little more modest about the play. “It was a great play by [Wagner] there,” Weissbach said after the game. “He made a great pass and I kind of just shot it.”
Both shots were perfectly placed though, and Weissbach looked sharp in all areas of the game. It was truly a debut to remember.
“I just think the first steps out on the ice, seeing the fans, it’s a great atmosphere out there,” Weissbach said about what he would take with him from his first game.
2. Hayton holds down the fort
New Badger goalie Kyle Hayton is the first senior goalie the Badgers have had in a couple years, and his experience showed tonight.
“Big factor in the game for sure was Kyle Hayton,” said Granato. “I thought he played really well in his first game.”
When asked more in depth about Hayton’s performance, Granato said, “I’m sure he’ll wanna take that second one back, but quick he made a couple big saves in the first period on screen shots that he found a way to find. Great competitor.” Hayton slowed an early rush with a kick save off his toe and didn’t look back after that.
Hayton however, credited his teammates with much of the effort. “We had a ton of blocks. The D played well tonight, blocked a lot of shots,” Hayton said. “It’s great to start the season with a battle.”
“I know he’s been waiting a long time for this night,” Granato said after the game. And with 20 saves on the game, Badger fans are looking forward to more nights like this one.
3. Will Johnson picks up where he left off
Will Johnson closed out last season with 22 points, closing out the season on a strong note. The winger picked up where he left off, scoring early and assisting on Linus Weissbach’s first career tally. Johnson was all over the ice on the forecheck, in the defensive zone, and on special teams situations.
Granato spoke highly of Johnson’s entire line. “They should be able to create chances consistently throughout the year,” Granato said after the game. “I think all of them are dynamic offensive players.”
Johnson, being the leader he is, again credited his teammates. “That was a beautiful wrap around that [Malone] had. It was nice that I was just there to put it in,” Johnson said. “And it was a beautiful finish by Linus on the little poke check I gave him. Short side high, it was beautiful. It was just nice having teammates help me out.”
Johnson may be relied upon for big contributions this season, and if this game gives any insight into what will transpire, it looks like it will be a big year for Will Johnson.
Linus Weissbach – 2G
Will Johnson – 1G, 1A
Kyle Hayton – 20 Saves, .909 SV%