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Wisconsin sweeps weekend trip to Massachusetts

Wisconsin drops Merrimack College and sweeps its first road weekend of the 2017-18 season in the process

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After dispatching Boston College on Friday night despite losing the shooting battle, the Wisconsin Badgers repeated the feat in a 4-1 victory over the Merrimack College Warriors on Saturday night.

Wisconsin used a crazy second period to wrestle control of this game in their favor. After seeing an initial lead disappear, UW used a power play goal and two more in a span of 39 seconds to put the Warriors away.

The win meant a weekend sweep of a trip to Massachusetts and a 4-1-0 start to the 2017-18 season for the No. 10-ranked Badgers.

UW’s third-straight win came despite being out-shot once again, this time 42-34 by Merrimack.

Once again, it was senior goaltender Kyle Hayton coming up big between the pipes. He stopped a season-high 41 shots by the Warriors and made sure UW came away with the sweep. The Badgers are a perfect 4-0-0 with him in net.

While the Badgers offense wasn’t exactly a slouch on the offensive end, it struggled with the pace of Merrimack at times in the defensive zone. Despite that, the Badgers found a way to victory once again.

Continuing a crazy trend of early goals, junior Jason Ford put the Badgers up 1-0 with a goal just 1:38 in to the first period. However, Merrimack answered back, with a controversial goal at the 7:12 mark of the second period.

It had Hayton so fired up he chased the ref down the ice over the call of the puck going over the line.

“I’m a competitive guy and I don’t like giving up goals, especially ones that don’t go in,” Hayton said after the game.

“You can be upset about it for a little bit, but as soon as that puck drops you’ve gotta get back to the game. Still had half the game left at that point. Had to stay focused and keep pushing on.”

That’s exactly what Hayton did, and Merrimack never put one across the line on him again in this game.

Hayton’s teammates picked him up in a big way as well, netting three goals in the course of just 39 seconds in the second period.

First it was junior Seamus Malone, who lit the lamp at the 12:01 mark of the second period to make it 2-1 on a power play goal at the back door. Malone streaked down the ice and took an easy pass from Will Johnson for the go-ahead goal.

UW gave itself plenty of insurance in just a few seconds, as Max Zimmer put home another goal just 14 seconds later. He redirected a Peter Tischke shot past Merrimack netminder Drew Vogler.

It was nearly deja vu for goal No. 4 for the Badgers, as this time it was senior Ryan Wagner tipping home a shot from Tischke just 39 seconds after Malone had initially lit the lamp.

That was all the offensive fire-power the Badgers would need, as the defense did well to withstand 16 shots in each of the last two periods of the game alone.

Wisconsin’s defense came away with a 16-5 advantage in blocked shots and held the Warriors to an 0-for-4 night on the Power Play.

“They’re a talented group of guys,” Hayton said of the defense. “I think we’ve got four lines that can play every night, four lines that can score which not many teams have. Defense is looking great, they had a great weekend blocking shots, diving and making plays. I think everyone is looking good and there’s only room for improvement.”

The road work continues for the Badgers next weekend, but much closer to home. UW will travel to Green Bay for a weekend series hosted by Northern Michigan. The games are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20-21Friday’s game begins at 7 p.m., while Saturday starts at 5 p.m.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Michigan series pivotal for Badgers hockey NCAA tourney hopes

Wisconsin’s recent momentum hints at NCAA tournament potential, but this weekend’s series with Michigan may be make or break.

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It is that time of the year for college hockey — it’s time to start thinking about the NCAA tournament. For the Wisconsin Badgers, the momentum gained over the past two weekends means they sit firmly on the edge of an NCAA tournament berth.

Standing in UW’s way this weekend is one of the teams ahead of them in the important PairWise rankings — the Michigan Wolverines. Wisconsin comes in to this series at No. 19 in the PairWise rankings, while Michigan comes in at No. 16.

After becoming the first Big Ten team to beat Notre Dame two weekends ago, Wisconsin followed that up with a win and an overtime draw against Penn State at the Kohl Center this past weekend. The points gained moved the Badgers off the near bottom of the Big Ten and up to third place in the league.

Momentum seems to be on the side of UW as of late, as both of Wisconsin’s point-getting results last weekend were comebacks.

“It’s been a frustrating first half,” said Granato at his weekly press conference on Monday. “We talked about this quite a bit in the past few weeks, because we’re a better team than our record’s indicated. We played some great games over the first half of the year, but we weren’t able to put a lot of victories in to some of the games were we played well.

“So I think that now that the results are starting to come, the confidence in each other is starting to come.”

However, the opponent this weekend is as equally hungry as the Badgers. Michigan is looking to rebound at home after being swept by Ohio State last weekend in 4-0 and 5-3 fashion.

The Wolverines sit on the edge of the NCAA tournament field and that’s not a good spot to be in heading in to February.

As for the Badgers, it’s not only the points gained, but the how that points to pure momentum heading down the stretch of the season.

Wisconsin has found a hot hand, or should I say glove, at goaltender after some struggles at the position over the previous month or so. While senior Kyle Hayton came in as a much-hyped graduate transfer from St. Lawrence, lately it has been Jack Berry that has spear-headed this latest turnaround.

He’s been in net for the last three games, and Wisconsin has been able to take points in all three games. Berry has been a steadying force between the pipes in those three games, having a 1.95 goals against average and 94.7 save percentage. He was brilliant in Wisconsin’s 5-0 shutout of previously B1G-unbeaten Notre Dame, stopping all 41 shots faced in that game alone.

UW’s offense has always played well, but freshman are continuing to step up instead of shrinking against higher competition. To date, Wisconsin’s newcomers have accounted for 82 points on the season. That includes

This series in Ann Arbor is also critical because the Badgers face two of their biggest foes of the season following the Michigan series. UW will host Minnesota next weekend and then travel to Columbus to take on a top 10 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes team.

Getting a positive result this weekend sets the Badgers up for a great chance to make a run to the NCAA tournament. Failing to earn points this weekend pretty much would put the nail in UW’s NCAA tournament hopes though.

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Badgers hockey

Badgers hockey hands Notre Dame its first Big Ten loss

Badgers end Notre Dame’s undefeated open to Big Ten play with an emphatic 5-0 result at the United Center and provide boost towards NCAA tourney hopes.

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Chicago — Notre Dame hockey’s introduction to the Big Ten has been a breeze so far, but that came to an end on Sunday as the Badgers blanked Notre Dame 5-0 at the United Center.

The win avenged a 4-2 defeat in the series opener on Friday night in South Bend, Ind. and was just the fourth win in the last 10 games for the Badgers.

Wisconsin was playing with a heavy heart though, with the loss of legend and close friend of Tony Granato, Jim Johannson, earlier in the day. Granato was thankful for his players picking him up when he didn’t feel like he could coach this game.

Freshmen were the story for the Badgers, who got a three-point night from Sean Dhooghe and two points from Wyatt Kalynuk in the 5-0 win.

Kalynuck’s second goal of the season was the game-winner, while Dhooghe wrapped things up with the fifth goal with just seconds to play.

Sophomore netminder Jack Berry pitched his third shutout of the season. He stopped all 40 shots faced on the night en route to getting the win.

Wisconsin maintained a perfect record in the state of Illinois with the win, improving to 11-0-0 since 1963. It was also just the 15th win ever against the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

The win was also Wisconsin’s first against Notre Dame since a 7-0 win over the Irish when the two were last members of the same conference back on February 28, 1981.

UW opened up the scoring as Kalynuk (2) went nearly coast-to-coast for a wrap-around goal at the 15:07 mark of the first period. Assists went to Jake Linhart and Jason Dhooghe.

The goal came just over 30 seconds after the Badgers had killed off their first penalty of the game, following their own opening power play.

Ryan Wagner stopped that with :53 seconds left though as he was called for a clear cross-check in front of the Irish net.

Notre Dame had 1:07 on its power play and got little out of it, but it seemed to slow all momentum the Badgers had.

The two teams traded good offensive opportunities all period long, as UW edged the Irish in shots 17-16.

Notre Dame’s final shot of the period was easily the best effort, but Berry stoned Cam Morrison in a one-on-one situation to end the chances to tie the game up in the first period.

Things slowed down in the second stanza, at least through the first 10 minutes or so.

But, a series of fortunate events lead to Wisconsin doubling its lead.

With the Badgers killing off a penalty, defender Tyler Inamato laid out for a block deep in his zone, took one off the helmet, and the turnover that resulted was to Wisconsin’s favor.

Assistant captain Trent Frederic went up ice and coolly sent home a one-on-one effort to double the Badgers lead at 2-0. The short-handed goal came at the 14:09 mark unassisted.

Wisconsin’s offense woke up from there, culminating in Seamus Malone ripping a high shot past the ND goaltender for a 3-0 lead with just 48.2 seconds left in the 2nd period. It was his ninth goal of the season.

Assists went to Kalynuk (18) and Sean Dhooghe (10).

Shots in the period were in UW’s favor at just 13-10 after a blistering pace to the first period.

Wisconsin wasn’t done scoring though, as they poured in two more in the final stanza. However, they had to wait until the final minute for more offense and used a great defensive effort to hold the Irish off the scoreboard themselves.

The fourth goal came via the power play, as Linus Weissbach put in his 7th goal of the season at the 19:23 mark of the period. Ryan Wagner (13) and Cameron Hughes (10) were credited with assists.

Wisconsin made sure to take advantage of another Irish mistake just seconds later as Malone picked the pocket of the Irish and Dhooghe raced in on net for the easy goal. His goal came at the 19:53 mark of the third period. Seamus Malone got his ninth assist on the goal.

The Badgers will return to the ice to take on Penn State at the Kohl Center. Puck drop for the series opener is scheduled for Friday night at 8:07 CT.

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Badgers hockey legend Jim Johannson passes away

Jim Johannson, a member of the 1983 Badgers national championship team, passes away unexpectedly at home in Colorado Springs.

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The University of Wisconsin and United State hockey in general lost a legend far too soon on Sunday. According to a statement by UW athletic communications, Jim Johannson, a member of the 1983 NCAA champion Badgers and long-time USA Hockey executive passed away early on Sunday morning.

UW released a statement noting Johannson’s passing, stating he died in his sleep at his home in Colorado Springs, Co.

“We lost a true friend in Jim Johannson today,” Wisconsin and U.S. Olympic coach Tony Granato said. “He was so compassionate and as loyal a friend as you could have. He was the ultimate teammate.

“I am deeply saddened and shocked and sorry that he is no longer with us. He was a special human being. Please pray for Jim’s wife and daughter, Abby and Ellie.”

Granato and Johannson crossed paths in college at UW and were teaming up on the 2018 United States Olympic team, which Granato will be coaching at the upcoming games next month.

As a Badger, Johannson was a prolific force up front, scoring 63 goals, 67 assists and 130 points in 148 games played from 1982-86. He was also a part of Wisconsin’s 1983 NCAA championship team.

Johannson also was a member of two USA Hockey Olympic teams (1988 and 1992), in addition to being a 7th round draft choice of the Hartford Whalers in 1982. He went on to play 374 games of professional hockey between 1987-94 in the International Hockey League where he registered 279 points, including 119 goals.

Off the ice, he was involved in the youth hockey community early on following the end of his playing career. He led the Twin Cities Vulcans as their general manager for five years (1995-2000), which included seeing his team win the 2000 USA Hockey Junior A National Championship.

Following his move to the USA Hockey team, Johannson carried a variety of roles that led him to become the assistant executive director and general manager of the 2018 Olympic team.

“We are beyond shocked and profoundly saddened,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey. “As accomplished as Jim was in hockey, he was the absolute best, most humble, kind and caring person you could ever hope to meet. His impact on our sport and more importantly the people and players in our sport have been immeasurable. Our condolences go out to his entire family, but especially to his loving wife Abby and their young daughter Ellie.”

We join everyone in passing on our condolences to his family.

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North Dakota has enough to get past Badgers in series opener

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A big night from Matthew Freytag just wasn’t enough for the Badgers, as visiting North Dakota (6-2-1, 1-1-0 NCHC) used a late power-play goal to snatch a 3-2 victory in the series opener between these bitter rivals.

“It was a good hockey game; I think we can play better tomorrow,” said UW head coach Tony Granato. “Two really good teams, and every inch of ice out there is a battle. You have to be prepared to play it like a playoff game and I thought that is the way most of the game was tonight.”

Freytag put the Badgers ahead with a wrister from the circle at the 6:59 mark of the first period, one of two goals on the day for the junior forward. However, in an indication of just how close this game was going to be, North Dakota answered back with Collin Adams beating UW netminder Kyle Hayton glove side.

It took just about eight more minutes for Freytag to put another one past fill-in goaltender Peter Thome and put the Badgers back in front.

“He’s (Freytag) a goal scorer, he can shoot the puck,” said Granato. “I thought their line with Baker, the energy he provides and the pressure that he puts on the other team on the forecheck creates space for him.

“When you can jump on pucks like Freytag did and those goals, I think that’s a tribute to his linemates and how hard they played to give him some space.”

Thome appeared to be headed for a nightmare night, but the first-time starter settled down from there.

Wisconsin outshot North Dakota 38-32 on the night, but it never found a way to keep a lead for very long.

After Freytag’s goal, Wisconsin’s lead held through intermission, but wouldn’t last long past that. Fighting Hawks forward Austin Poganski netted just his second goal of the season at 1:25 of the second period.

The two teams traded chances, but neither could find the back of the net against two stellar goaltending performances through the rest of the second period.

In a series that can get nasty, this game was relatively clean. Both teams only had a pair of power play opportunities on the night.

However, it was all that the Fighting Hawks needed. Midway through the third period the Badgers gave up the second power play of the night to North Dakota and the visitors took advantage.

Nick Jones tipped a shot in front of Hayton and got credited with a goal at the 11:04 mark of the third period.

Wisconsin poured on the offense, but Thome was up to the challenge the rest of the way. Not a one of the game-high 19 shots in the final period could find the back of the net.

But, the Badgers believe they left plenty to be desired on the offensive end on Friday night.

“I think he (Thome) made a couple of good saves, but as a team we need to take his eyes away and not let him see those pucks come through,” Freytag said. “As a team, we know we can do that better tomorrow.”

The Badgers will get a chance to get even on Saturday night at 7pm, with the game televised by Fox Sports Wisconsin.

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