Winless weekend not without lessons, competitive play for Badgers

first_imgEven though the Wisconsin men’s hockey team failed to record a win this weekend against Minnesota, there was certainly no lack of thrill Friday and Saturday night at the Kohl Center.After Michigan swept the Badgers last weekend in a fairly uncompetitive series, the Badgers made things interesting both nights against the Gophers, even if their efforts only resulted in a loss and a tie.Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves agreed that the crowd certainly got their money’s worth.“The people that came to the ice rink this weekend, they got their entertainment in two games,” Eaves said.Jumping out to a 3-1 lead on Minnesota Friday night, it looked like the Badgers were on their way to stealing a win from the more talented Gophers and possibly ready to turn their rough season around. However, whatever optimism there was to have for Badgers fans would vanish in the blink of an eye roughly six minutes later.Eleven minutes into the second period, Minnesota’s Vinni Lettieri scored to bring the Gophers within one goal. A minute later, Minnesota struck again when Jake Bischoff put in a rebound to tie the game, and just like that, the lead was gone. Twenty-six seconds later, the Gophers scored again. Just like that, the Gophers had the lead after scoring three goals in 39 seconds, rendering a shocked Kohl Center crowd completely speechless.Amazingly, Minnesota wasn’t done. Thirteen seconds later, the Gophers found the back of the net again. Scoring their 4th goal in 100 seconds, Minnesota not only silenced the Badgers, but also drove a dagger through any hope that Wisconsin could still pull out the win.The Badgers continued to fight for the remainder of the game, but Minnesota’s lead never appeared to be in serious doubt as they skated to a 7-5 win.Badger defenseman Chase Drake said he felt his team lost focus and got away from their game plan during that four-goal stretch for Minnesota. Teammate Grant Besse agreed, and vowed that the Badgers would get better result the next game, as long they stayed concentrated.“When we have a lead, we’ve showed that we get a little too excited and forget our game plan,” Besse said. “If we learn to stay focused throughout the rest of the game, then we’ll be fine.”Fortunately for Wisconsin, Besse words proved correct the following night in game two of the weekend series. While it would have been easy for the Badgers to lie on their back versus the Gophers after such a deflating loss, Wisconsin did the opposite.The Badgers came out guns-blazing, as freshman forward Ryan Wagner gave Wisconsin the lead nine seconds into the game with his first goal the season. Wagner’s goal also tied the record for fastest goal to start a contest in school history.While Minnesota put Friday night’s game to rest in the second period, Saturday night between the Badgers and Gophers was a tenacious battle throughout. The game included multiple scuffles with neither team ever appearing willing to back down.With the game tied 1-1, Corbin McGuire received a five-minute major kneeing penalty, giving Minnesota a prime opportunity to pull away. Despite being in a big hole against the top power play in the nation, Wisconsin gave up only one goal during Minnesota’s extended one man advantage and despite losing the lead, the penalty kill still felt like a success, according to Eaves.In the third period, the Badgers and Gophers took turns from coming back from one-goal leads. With 13 minutes to play, Besse tied the game at two for Wisconsin by firing a one-timer past Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox. Just 30 seconds later, Minnesota quickly responded to regain the lead.After a goal by Wisconsin’s Kevin Schulze brought the teams even once again, freshman Cameron Hughes thought he had saved the day for Wisconsin when he found the back of the net with just a minute and 13 seconds left in the game.With more than a minute to play, Wisconsin had the lead and the Kohl Center was the loudest it had been all season. However, just two seconds away from their first conference victory, Wisconsin gave up a heartbreaking goal and spoiled a win that Badgers seemed to truly earn.After a scoreless overtime, the Badgers won a shootout that does not count toward their overall record, but gives them an extra point in the Big Ten standings.Keeping up with this weekend’s drama, Wisconsin’s Corbin McGuire bounced from his costly five-minute major penalty in the second period to become the hero by scoring the winning shootout goal.Despite losses against Minnesota, the Badgers are hopeful they can grow from this rollercoaster weekend and finish this season’s story with a happy ending.“I think obviously we’ve had some ups and downs,” freshman forward Cameron Hughes said. “We’ll keep working on it and play our best hockey at the end of the year.”last_img

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