As the old adage goes, if you build it, they will come. At the University of Wisconsin, Mike Hastings has built it, and the fans are starting to respond.
The No. 4 Badgers welcomed in their bitter border battle rivals in No. 9 Minnesota over the weekend, and the second game of the two-game set attracted a sellout crowd to the Kohl Center, the first since 2019.
The games themselves were two tightly contested hockey games, one going each way, to result in an even split of the six possible points available in the Big Ten conference standings.
Here’s how it went down this weekend.
Men’s Hockey: Wisconsin salvages split after wild overtime win against No. 12 MichiganCrazy things always seem to happen when the University of Wisconsin and University of Michigan get together. This weekend was Read…
Game 1: Minnesota 2 (OT), Wisconsin 1
Despite the largest crowd of the season being in attendance for game one, a mark that would be broken the next night, it was Minnesota who came out hot in the opening period, outshooting the Badgers 17–11.
Oliver Moore got Minnesota on the board first off the rush 7:28 into the contest, extending his then-active point streak out to eight games. The first period would end 1–0.
Following the first period, the story of the game undoubtedly became the Golden Gophers’ unflappable veteran goalkeeper Justen Close. UW outshot Minnesota the rest of the way 30–12, but Close was phenomenal the whole way.
With 4:07 left in the second period, Badgers took the lone power play of the game for either side. Wisconsin fired five shots on goal during the two-minute man-advantage, and Close stopped them all. UW forward David Silye tagged a post as well, which doesn’t count as a shot on goal.
Down 1–0 entering the third with a crowd waiting to explode, the Badgers were able to sneak one through the brick wall early in the third. Owen Lindmark found a loose puck out front and shoveled a backhand past Close for his career-best 11th goal of the season to even the score at one.
The game headed into overtime tied at a goal apiece, but Minnesota wasted no time getting the winner. In a game that they had the Gophers on their heels the whole evening, the Badgers gave an inch and Minnesota took a mile. Another odd-man rush sent Moore and Brody Lamb in on Wisconsin goalkeeper Kyle McClellan. Moore polished off yet another multipoint game with a beautiful feed to Lamb who buried it upstairs to give Minnesota the win in overtime.
The win gave Minnesota its first over the Badgers when scoring less than three goals.
Game 2: Minnesota 1, Wisconsin 1 (UW wins the shootout 2–0)
In game two, the Badgers faithful celebrated Hastings’ 58th birthday by giving him a sold out Kohl Center to play in, a crowd of 15,359 that is the largest the building can hold for hockey and the largest one to see a men’s college hockey game this year.
This time, the Badgers wasted little time getting the crowd into a frenzy, scoring the opening goal of the game 5:54 in on a rebound to the post, put right on the stick of UW’s Jack Horbach who put it home.
Similar to last night, the score remained 1–0 at the end of the first. But, the Golden Gophers, who were buzzing most of the night after allowing the goal, tied the score at one with 6:10 remaining in the second period. Or they thought so.
In what would become the theme of the night, Minnesota had their game-tying goal wiped off the board due to goalkeeper interference. The goal stood at first, but was overturned following a challenge from Hastings.
The Gophers scored less than a minute later though to tie it up, thanks to Minnesota captain Jaxon Nelson. The game headed into the third even at one. Then, it happened again.
In the twilight of regulation, the Golden Gophers thought they took the lead on a goal from Mason Nevers. But, this one was waved off on the ice right away, again for goalkeeper interference. Minnesota challenged, but the call was upheld, and the score remained tied at one.
In a game where it felt like the Badgers had nine lives, McClellan rescued them multiple times, keeping the game tied at one, including a massive save on Aaron Huglen at the end of regulation with 3.9 seconds left.
The game would go into overtime, where unlike last night, nobody would find the back of the net. As a result, the game ended in a tie, but there still was an important extra point on the line in the standings.
Minnesota, 0-for-11 on shootout attempts entering the game, missed both of their shots to extend their shootout woes. Meanwhile, UW freshmen Quinn Finley and William Whitelaw took center stage and each buried their shots to give UW the shootout win, extra point for the game, and the overall split for the weekend.
McClellan made 42 saves in the game, and both in the shootout, to secure the two-point effort for the Badgers.
The Badgers played this series without leading scorer Cruz Lucius (22 points). Lucius missed his third and fourth games, and the Badgers have yet to win any of them (0-3-1). Lucius is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Stars of the Weekend
3 – Owen Lindmark, F. The only Badger who could solve Justen Close on Friday, his goal tied the game at one.
2 – William Whitelaw, F. The freshman secured the extra point on Saturday with the clinching shootout goal.
1 – Kyle McClellan, G. The senior goaltender was fantastic all weekend long, stopping 69 of the 72 shots he faced this weekend.
The Badgers will go for the season sweep over Notre Dame as they welcome the Fighting Irish into the Kohl Center for two matchups next weekend. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday.