The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team (14-18-2, 7-15-2-2 Big Ten) traveled to Columbus, Ohio this weekend in hopes of continuing their recent success and entering the Big Ten Conference Playoffs in their best form. This was no easy task, as the Badgers were matched up against the Big Ten’s second place team, The Ohio State University Buckeyes (18-11-5, 11-9-4).
Winners in three of their previous four games, the Badgers entered Value City Arena Friday night hoping to keep their newfound stride and continue to grow as a team before they try to make a playoff run. After splitting the series earlier in the Kohl Center, both teams looked to make a statement Friday night.
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If the Badgers had any chance this weekend, it would mean they would need to find a way to beat Buckeyes’ goalie Tommy Nappier, who entered the game Friday night with a 93% save rate.
Initially, both teams weren’t able to find the back of the net, entering the first intermission with a score of 0–0. Wisconsin led the Buckeyes in shots on goal by a total of 18–12.
After the Buckeyes took control with a goal early in the second period, freshman center Alex Turcotte fired back with a goal of his own. Last week, Turcotte was named one of the Big Ten Stars of the Week due to his five-point weekend, including the game-winning assist to teammate Roman Ahcan in Friday’s game. In 25 games played this season, Turcotte has 23 points, including 15 assists.
Max Zimmer continued his recent goal-scoring tear, netting a huge goal in the third period to give the Badgers a lead which would remain for the rest of the game, as they would win 3–2. Zimmer now has three goals over his last two games, and all seven of his goals this season happened within the last 11 games he has played.
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In Saturday’s matchup, the Buckeyes dominated the Badgers right off the bat, going up 3–0 by the middle of the second period. Having stopped 35 out of 37 shots the night before, this was not the start Wisconsin goalie Daniel Lebedeff had hoped for.
After a goal from freshman Dylan Holloway cracked open the seal for the Badgers, the offense woke up and continued their comeback.
Continuing his late season surge, Zimmer netted yet another goal late in the second period, pulling the Badgers within one point as the game went to the third period.
After junior Tyler Inamoto tied up the game late, the game headed to overtime.
Officially marked as a tie game, the game went to 3-on-3 overtime where the winner would earn one extra point in the standings. This rule opens the ice from five players on each squad to three, creating much more opportunities to put the puck on net and create chances to score.
Ty Pelton-Byce took matters into his own hands, scoring the game-winning goal to give Wisconsin the extra point and continuing their hot streak into the Big Ten Conference Playoffs, where the Badgers will again face the Buckeyes.
Finishing off the regular season with a win meant more to the Badgers than just what the score might show. The win also meant they would continue their recent momentum and continue to quiet those who thought their season was over.
Faced off in a best-of-three series, the Badgers play in the first round against OSU starting Friday March 6 at 7 p.m. The second leg of the series will be played Saturday March 7 at 7 p.m. If necessary, a third game will be played Sunday night in Columbus at 7 p.m.