The No. 6 ranked University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team (3-1-0) made a big statement this past weekend in front of a packed Kohl Center with two convincing victories over two-time defending national champions Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (1-3-0).
It was the Badgers’ first chance to play at home this season, and they did not disappoint, winning 6–2 Friday night and 3–1 Saturday. Unsurprisingly, it was once again the young guns playing outstanding team hockey that got Wisconsin the wins.
Cole Caufield got Friday’s contest started with a goal just 53 seconds in off a beautiful feed from junior forward Linus Weissbach. It was the freshman sensation’s fifth goal of the season and he’d go on to net his sixth late in the third period, which kept him at the top of the team’s leaderboard.
After the early score, Wisconsin seemed to lose focus for a bit, with multiple ill-advised penalties handing Duluth two power-play goals. However, they turned it back around just a few minutes later as Weissbach poked one in on a far-side dime from No. 5 NHL Draft pick and current freshman Alex Turcotte.
The goal sprung UW into a strong defensive second period, during which freshman Owen Lindmark and junior transfer Ty Pelton-Bryce turned some strong two men play into a 3-2 Badgers lead.
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The second and third periods were especially outstanding for sophomore goaltender Daniel Lebedeff. Lebedeff gave up five goals in each of Wisconsin’s first two matchups, but turned back 57 of 60 (95%) Bulldog attempts over the course of the weekend.
Rounding out Friday night, the Badgers scored three goals in the third period, starting with junior Tarek Baker’s first of the year followed by Lindmark’s and Caufield’s second scores of the night.
Saturday night promised to bring the best out of Duluth, and the Badgers answered the call. The reigning champs made a conscious effort to key in on Caufield and man down on the defensive end.
Even though UMD seemed to minimize Caufield on offense, Turcotte stepped up and put one top-shelf five minutes into the second period to put the Badgers up 1–0.
Just seven minutes later, Pelton-Bryce put goal number two in the back of the net on a breakaway, which ended up being all Wisconsin needed to emerge victorious. The Badgers gave one up in the last few minutes of the second, but stingy defense throughout the third period kept them in command.
Wisconsin ended up getting one more on an empty-netter from Sean Dhooghe as the clock wound down, sealing a 3–1 win and a sweep of one of the most consistent teams in the country.
The two outstanding performances boosted Wisconsin 11 spots up the national ranking from No. 17 to No. 6, and has the whole country on the lookout for the young Badgers.
Wisconsin will stay at home for a weekend series with the Clarkson Golden Knights, and don’t expect them to slow down anytime soon.