Coming off of a crushing series loss to No. 6 University of Michigan last weekend, the No. 14 University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team came back and executed a resilient sweep of No. 15 Penn State University.
The Badgers executed their second Big Ten Conference sweep of the season following their work in the opening series of this 2020 campaign against Notre Dame.
The Badgers’ sweep over Penn State came in resounding fashion with a 7-3 game two victory Tuesday night. Cole Caufield, the star that outshone most of the offense throughout the contest, scored on a power play at even strength and pulled off an astonishing hat trick with an empty net.
Through the series against the Michigan Wolverines, it was extremely difficult to ignore the massive hole in offense created by the loss of star forwards Dylan Holloway and Ty Pelton-Byce. The Badgers continued to struggle in their execution, and couldn’t gain enough momentum to grant themselves a lead strong enough to take down the Wolverines.
Though the Badgers may have forced overtime in the second matchup against Michigan, their offensive hesitation ultimately cost them the series. With a mere two days of rest, the team returned to the ice to compete in a conference matchup with the Nittany Lions.
“We don’t have too much time to really sulk and go over the mistakes too much,” starting goalie Robbie Beydoun said after a 2-1 overtime loss Friday. “Just make quick adjustments and come back Monday.”
After the Badgers pulled off their first home series sweep this season, leaving the Nittany Lions 0-4, it appeared head coach Tony Granato somewhat worked out those minor kinks.
Monday night, five goals were netted by Wisconsin natives, including both Caufield brothers, Cole and Brock, while freshman Sam Stange gave the team some momentum on offense, but not until the third period.
While the Badgers may have executed a 6-3 win over the Nittany Lions, they were massively outshot, as the Nittany Lions primarily dominated possession. The final shots on goal were 52-20, the second-largest negative margin for the Badgers in the last 22 seasons. Analyzing the win, Granato could only give praise to Beydoun.
“We can’t be satisfied and say we played great and kid ourselves,” Granato said following Monday night’s contest. “We’ve got to realize that our goalie was the reason we won.”
Watching the Badgers take down the Nittany Lions Tuesday night, it was obvious that game was a wake-up call. Several forwards continued to step up and fill their offensive hole — and Cole Caufield alone had eight shots on goal to end the night, effortlessly slamming three into the back of the net.
“Monday night’s game, we didn’t really have the legs, but we stuck with it,” Caufield said Tuesday night. “We found ways to keep it going tonight. I think we just rolled over. I think we’re just the better team tonight and that showed. So yeah, I’m proud of how we’re doing, and I like where we’re at.”
Caufield wasn’t the only shining star of the series, as Beydoun managed to break his career record of 39 saves Monday night, on top of saving a total of 38 shots Tuesday to complete the sweep.
Since the Badgers are scheduled to play four regular-season games in the span of only six days, it begs the question, will Granato choose to give freshman Cameron Rowe a shot between the pipes in the next matchup against Arizona State.
“Cam’s gonna play soon,” Granato said following Tuesday’s victory. “I thought he would have played by now, but when you get a goalie that’s seeing the puck as well as he is and he’s, your team in front of you is playing as competent as we are trying to him, it’s been pretty hard to make that change.”
In addition to possibly benching Beydoun, it’s possible that Pelton-Byce will be back on the ice for the Badgers. Granato said that he is “feeling better.”
With Beydoun potentially on the bench and Pelton-Byce back on the ice, it will be interesting to observe the roster changes released early Friday. Following the roster release, the Badgers will face the Arizona State Sun Devils at a home again in LaBahn Arena.