The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team (14-19-4, 8-13-3 Big Ten) dropped the first two games 5-6 and 4-7 in their three-game series to Michigan (20-13-3, 11-10-3 Big Ten) over the weekend, eliminating them from the Big Ten Tournament and effectively ending their season.
The first game Friday was close, as the Badgers started out hot with a 3-1 lead in the first period with goals by Tyler Inamato, Matthew Freytag and Ryan Wagner. Michigan battled back, however, scoring on four straight power plays to give the Wolverines a 5-3 lead in the second period. But Wisconsin wouldn’t quit, tying the game up 5-5 with goals by Linus Weissbach and Wagner again until Michigan’s Tony Calderone hit his fourth goal and the game-winner with 11:07 left to defeat Wisconsin 6-5 and take the first game of the series.
The second contest Saturday was not nearly as close. Though the Badgers got off to an early lead on the stick of Trent Frederic, Michigan regained the lead in the first period and didn’t let go the rest of the game to secure the 7-4 win and advance to the next round of the Big Ten Tournament.
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While the Badgers scored an impressive nine goals in their two games, defensive struggles made it very difficult for the Badgers to keep up with Michigan on the scoreboard. Wisconsin gave both senior Kyle Hayton and Jack Berry opportunities at goalie over the weekend, with Hayton starting the first game and Berry the second. Unfortunately, both came up short as the Badgers let up six non-empty net goals in each contest, getting outperformed in both goals allowed and saves by Michigan goaltender Hayden Lavigne.
The Badgers certainly made Lavigne work for the wins though, as he made significantly more saves than Wisconsin’s goalie duo at 76 to 45 while still allowing fewer goals. Also, Lavigne gave up just two scores in the final period over the series, keeping Wisconsin from taking any late leads in the final two periods.
When talking to UW Athletics after the second game, Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato recognized the defensive problems and the Badgers’ inability to execute on their shots.
“The numbers do not look good,” Granato said. “We have to be better as a team defensively to win games. Offensively, I thought we were outstanding as far as how we generated. The shot total wasn’t as impressive as it was last night, but we had lots of chances and just must have missed the net on a lot of our chances tonight.”
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The Badgers had some impressive moments on the year like beating then No. 1 Notre Dame at a neutral site in Chicago in January. But overall, Wisconsin underperformed this season, going unranked and finishing with a sub .500 record.
Coach Granato and the Badgers will have to wait till next year for another shot at the Frozen Four, which the team hasn’t made since 2010.