As far as debut games go, Wisconsin Badgers freshman forward Linus Weissbach had about as good of one as possible. His two goals were key in the No. 11/12 Badgers outlasting Michigan Tech 3-2 in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame game on Sunday afternoon.
The win improved the Badgers to 5-1-0 in six appearances in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame games played to date.
“There are a lot of good things for the first game of the year,” said head coach Tony Granato after the game. “You’re always wondering with the first game jitters how things are going to turn out, and I think all in all, you want to battle and find a way to get a win, and work from what you can learn from that first game.”
UW got off to a quick start, as Will Johnson lit the lamp at the 5:51 mark of the first period. Junior forward Seamus Malone attempted a wraparound, and Johnson capitalized on the rebound as he crashed the net and poked it home.
Five minutes later, Wisconsin found itself on the power play. Weissbach pounced on his first special teams opportunity of the season and put UW in control, up 2-0 after Michigan Tech goaltender Patrick Munson blocked the first shot.
MTU responded back with a power play goal of its own, with Joel L’Esperance putting it home at the 13:13 mark of the second period.
Weissbach slammed the comeback hopes shut just over 90 seconds later. Senior forward Ryan Wagner made a killer pass to an open Weissbach, who slammed a one-timer past Munson for a 3-1 lead at 14:48 of the second period.
Michigan Tech put a late second period scare in to the Badgers, who put themselves in a bad situation with a late power play goal. Jake Lucchini capitalized on the 5-on-4 opportunity to make it 3-2.
The two teams skated to a scoreless third period as UW got off on the right foot to its season.
The Badgers outshot Michigan Tech 27-22 on the day and despite two goals given up, Granato was happy with the debut of graduate transfer goaltender Kyle Haton.
“Great,” said Granato. “I’m sure he’ll want to take that second one back, but he made a couple pretty big saves in the first period on screen shots that he found a way to find. Great competitor, and we’ve seen it through the month of practice, so it was nice to get him out in a game and see him out there, I know he’s been waiting a long time for this night, so great performance by him.”
Weissbach’s two goals in his debut was ultra-rare for the Badgers, as it was the first time that happened since Oct. 6, 2006 when Michael Davies netted two against Northern Michigan in a 3-0 win back then.
However, according to Granato, Weissbach’s performance wasn’t a surprise to those who have seen him up close and in person to date.
“Well, that’s the first time you’ve seen him play, that’s something we’ve seen since we started recruiting last year,” Granato said. “His breakaway speed, quick hands, certainly a competitor for a little guy. What a great start for him.”
Wisconsin moves on to Big Ten play next weekend, as it plays host to Ohio State for a weekend series at the Kohl Center. Friday’s puck drop is set for 7pm and Saturday will see the game go off at 5p.m.