After 90 minutes of regulation and two overtimes were not enough to decide a victor in Wisconsin’s first round match of the Big Ten Tournament, the fate of the Badger’s season came down to a guessing game. Unfortunately for the Badgers, Michigan connected on four of its five penalty kicks, leaving Wisconsin’s season in serious jeopardy.
The match could not have ended in a more dramatic way for the Wolverines or Badgers. Both teams were unable to put to record a goal during the game, forcing the match to end in a shootout. After trailing by a goal early, Wisconsin’s Eric Conklin placed in the bottom left corner, and goalie Alex Horwath blocked Michigan’s Cam Cameron to even the score at two goals each in the shootout.
With the shootout tied up after four players, the match came down to the best player for each side. Scott Lorenz, who led the Badgers in goals for the year and was tied for second in the Big Ten in points, had his shot blocked by Michigan goalie Patrick Sperry. With a chance to put the game away, Peri Marosevic, Michigan’s leading scorer, placed his ball in the left side of the net.
“If I save it, I’m a hero,” Horwath said. “I would have liked to have gotten another one, obviously.”
Even had the game not gone to penalty kicks, it would have been tough to tell who was the better team on the field. The conditions for the game were atrocious, with pouring rain and a field filled with patches of mud. During overtime, when the rain came down harder, neither team was able to find many chances. In fact, Wisconsin recorded no shots in the extra periods.
“[Poor conditions] were obviously a factor,” goalie Alex Horwath said. “You can’t really play soccer in these conditions.”
After regulation and double overtime, fatigue also played a huge factor in the players’ ability to perform.
“It’s definitely a hard time, especially when you’re kicking a PK,” defenseman Andy Miller said. “It’s tough when your calf’s all cramped up.”
The fact that the game came down to penalty kicks only made the loss tougher to swallow.
“It’s a horrible way to go, no matter what,” Miller said. “Even after the game, before we take [penalty kicks], we go up to each other and say good game no matter what happens, because it’s a tossup who goes out.”
The loss leaves the Badgers’ fate beyond their control. Despite the team’s high ranking in the RPI, four Big Ten losses in the regular season and a first round loss in the conference tournament put their season in the hands of non-Big Ten teams who have yet to play their conference tournament.
However, the Badgers are still hopeful their season will continue.
“It could happen,” Horwath said. “We have to sit at home this weekend and hope to God that all the teams win their tournaments who are supposed to.”
Despite finishing the season at the bottom of the Big Ten, head coach Jeff Rohrman feels the Badgers belong in the tournament.
“We play a tough schedule,” Rohrman said. “At the end of the day you hope that helps you, and I guess we’ll find out Monday.”
If the season is in fact over for the Badgers, they still feel they went out valiantly.
“It’s more of heart and guts,” Rohrman said. “I was proud of the effort, the way they came out and battled and competed.”