MADISON — Midway through the second period Wisconsin freshman Tarek Baker scooped up a loose puck and raced down the length of the ice to score five-hole on Ohio State’s goalie Sean Romeo.
No, this isn’t a recap of Friday’s game. Yes it happened again.
This time the goal proved to be decisive for the Badgers (2-1, 1-1 B1G) as they held on to beat the Buckeyes (1-1, 1-1 B1G) in Madison on Saturday evening.
After being accused of playing flat in the series opener on Friday, the Badgers set the tone early and often with aggressive plays in the offensive zone. Seamus Malone and Ryan Wagner hounded the Ohio State defenders during the first period, and the team was rewarded when Will Johnson banged home a rebound goal to take a 1-0 lead.
“I know Friday night collectively as a group we didn’t win those puck battles that we needed to, so I thought today we made an emphasis on doing that,” Malone said.
Cameron Hughes added a put-back goal in the second period on a nice tic-tac-toe play from Peter Tischke and Jason Ford to put the Badgers up 2-0. It couldn’t have been an easier first point of the year for the Badgers captain who scored 32 last season.
“We talked before the game about getting the puck behind their [defense], and that’s kind of honestly only what I was trying to do,” Hughes said. “It was a pretty lucky bounce, but you go to the net and good things happen.”
The ensuing two minutes saw Ohio State take complete control of the game. Mason Jobst and the rest of the Buckeyes swarmed Kyle Hayton as the Badger defensemen put their bodies on the line blocking shot after shot.
After a nice hit from Jerod Zirbel along the boards, the Badgers finally broke out of their zone as Baker grabbed the puck and took it down to score on Romeo for the eventual game-winner.
The play killed any momentum the Buckeyes had, and the nearly 10,000 Badger faithful had the Kohl Center rocking.
That is, until a 24 second stretch in the third period saw two Ohio State goals. Freddy Gerard struck first with a tipped shot out in front of Hayton, and John Wiitala later added his second of the series as the Buckeyes cut the lead to 3-2 with just over eight minutes to play in the game.
The Badgers responded with arguably their hardest-fought eight minutes of the season, and held on to beat the Buckeyes for a vital three points.
“I liked our response after the two goals. I don’t know that they had a scoring chance after that,” Granato said. “It’s probably an example of what a lot of the Big Ten games will be this upcoming season.”
Next up for the Badgers is a road game at Boston College next Friday at 6 p.m. CT.