Matchup: No. 7 Wisconsin vs. No. 4 North Dakota
Dates: Friday/Saturday; Nov. 3/4; 7pm CT
Location: Madison, Wis.; Kohl Center (15,359)
TV: Fox Sports Wisconsin Plus (Fri.); Fox Sports Wisconsin (Sat.)
Radio: 1310 WIBA
Outside of seeing Minnesota on the schedule, nothing gets the blood pumping for Badgers hockey players and fans like seeing the University of North Dakota on the schedule. These old-school rivals meet again as non-conference foes at the Kohl Center this weekend.
It’s a perfect tune up for the Badgers, who head in to Big Ten play in a major way next weekend, to prep for the grind. It is also the first time a ranked opponent comes to the Kohl Center this season.
With a long, storied and heated history between these two former conference foes this weekend is bound to bring back WCHA memories and plenty of heated reactions from the fans. It also brings quality hockey matchups back to the Kohl Center. Let’s take a look at how this series shapes up.
About North Dakota:
Record: 5-2-1 (1-1-0 NCHC)
Head Coach: Brad Berry (60-24-8, 3rd year at UND and overall)
Notable: The last time the Fighting Hawks came to Madison they were the Fighting Sioux and it was 2014. It was a successful trip for UND, as they swept the weekend series. UND has played four games on the road already this season, owning a 2-1-1 record with a pair of overtime games against Alaska-Anchorage to start the season and a split series against Colorado College last weekend.
Fighting Hawks Stat Leaders:
Points: Christian Wolanin (8 – 3 goals, 5 assists)
Goals: Wolanin and Grant Mismash (3)
Assists: Wolanin (5)
Save Pct.: Cam Johnson (.925)
Goals Against: Johnson (1.93)
Record: 6-3-0 (1-1-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Tony Granato (24-16-1 in 2nd Year at UW and overall)
Notable: Wisconsin’s offense has been on fire as of late, after a struggle in the shots department early on. Last weekend the Badgers outshot St. Lawrence by a combined 77-32 margin, including holding the Saints to just 13 shots on Saturday. Unfortunately, those 13 shots were enough to get a victory for the visitors as Jack Berry let in four of the six goals in 42 minutes played before being pulled. Can Berry help keep star goaltender Kyle Hayton fresh as Big Ten play begins in earnest next weekend.
Badgers Stat Leaders:
Points: Will Johnson, Trent Frederic (10)
Goals: Ryan Baker, Frederic (5)
Assists: Johnson (7)
Save Pct.: Kyle Hayton (.901)
Goals Against: Jack Berry (2.32)
Throw records and rankings out the window, these two programs plain don’t like each other and you can bet the head coaches have let the players know what this series means to them personally. However, on the ice this is going to be a very interesting matchup between UW’s high-scoring offense and the UND defense that is allowing just 1.6 goals per game. The Fighting Hawks also come in to this one averaging 3.0 goals per game and that could be trouble for a Wisconsin defense that has had issues keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard.
Also, we’re just going to put this here for old-times sake.
Friday: Wisconsin 4, North Dakota 2
Saturday: Wisconsin 3, North Dakota 4
I can see this being a tight, hard-fought series and that means a split at the Kohl Center. While the Badgers number suggest over 8,400 fans have come to games so far this season that’s largely been a fudged number compared to the swaths of empty seats outside of the student section when games have been televised. Let’s hope UW fans show up for one of the biggest rivalries in college hockey.
Badgers can’t hold on in Border Battle loss to Gophers
The No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers looked to be in prime position to upend bitter rival Minnesota after getting off to a 2-0 lead. But, a three-goal barrage in the second period did the hosts in in a 3-2 loss to open Big Ten hockey play.
Wisconsin opened the scoring thanks to a pair of freshman, as Roman Ahcan found a wide open Brock Caufield and he buried a one-time in to the open net.
It was Caufield’s second goal of the season and the Badgers were on the front foot at the 9:37 mark of the first period.
So far this season, sophomore forward Wyatt Kalynuk has been on fire in the scoring department. He led the team in points (9) coming in to the series against Minnesota, and after a goal just four minutes in to the second period he tied at the top of the goal-scoring chart with five on the year.
With the Badgers up 2-0 early on in the period it appeared they would boss the game.
Instead, it woke the visiting Gophers up.
Minnesota put three goals in to the net in a span of 74 seconds in the middle of the second period.
The first goal came at the 9:20 mark of the second period, as Ben Brinkman put home the opener. Wisconsin’s Ty Emberson was called for cross-checking on the goal, a call that was very controversial and difficult to understand.
Minnesota appeared to get in the way of Wisconsin netminder Daniel Lebedeff, but was ruled to have been checked in to him.
“It was a penalty for cross checking,” said Granato after the game. “Their player ran into our goalie and didn’t have enough time to get off of our goalie according to the referee. That was the explanation.”
It took just 21 seconds in to the ensuing power play for the Gophers to tie the game up. Rem Pitlick lit the lamp for the 2-2 scoreline at 9:41 of the second period.
However, the horror wasn’t over for the hosts. Minnesota would go from 2 down to 3 up as Ryan Norman would slot home the game-winner at the 10:34 mark of the period.
It was all the scoring that they needed, as Mat Robson stopped 30 of 32 shots faced in the win.
Wisconsin also couldn’t take advantage of mistakes made by the Gophers all night long. The Badgers had four power play opportunities, but only mustered one shot on goal over those four opportunities.
UW will look to get a series split as they host the Gophers in the finale at 7pm CT. The game can be seen on Fox Sports Wisconsin and BTN2Go.
Badgers open up B1G Hockey play with Border Battle
A young No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey program will get a big test as it opens Big Ten hockey play. That’s because the Badgers will welcome the No. 16 Minnesota Gophers to town for a two-game series in the intense Border Battle rivalry.
It’s certainly a marquee way to open up conference play and a series that see’s these two teams trying to gain a foothold on their seasons.
This series will have a different feeling as long-time Gophers head coach Don Lucia is not behind the bench for the visitors anymore. His replacement, Bob Motzko, isn’t an unfamiliar name though as he is a former Gopher assistant and long-time head coach at Minnesota-Duluth.
Can he step up and lead a young Gophers team to a big road upset in his first time as the leader on the bench or will the Badgers experience advantage finally give them a home sweep in this series under Tony Granato?
Let’s break down how this series sets up.
Wisconsin Badgers (No. 20)
Record: 4-4-0 (0-0-0-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Tony Granato, 3rd season (38-38-5)
Notable: Wisconsin’s coaching staff has embraced the youth movement in a big way as of late. Last Saturday at North Dakota, the Badgers skated all nine of their freshmen for the first time this season. That included the collegiate debut of rookie defenseman Jesper Peltonen. The nine freshmen were the most for UW in a game since March 14, 2015, when the Badgers had nine rookies in the lineup in a game against Ohio State.
Points: Wyatt Kalynuk, 9 (4 goals, 5 assists)
Goals: Sean Dhooghe (5)
Assists: 4 tied w/ 6
GAA: Daniel Lebedeff (2.02)
Save Pct.: Daniel Lebedeff (.922)
Minnesota Gophers (No. 16)
Record: 1-3-1 (0-0-0-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Bob Motzko — 1st year at Minnesota, 13th overall (277-195-50)
Notable: The Gophers have a bad record and are still ranked? When the games with Wisconsin are games 6 and 7 against ranked opponents on the season you begin to see why the Gophers remained ranked.
Points: Clayton Phillips, 5 (0 goals, 5 assists)
Goals: 4 tied w/ 2
Assists: Phillips (5)
GAA: Eric Schierhorn (2.64)
Save Pct.: Mat Robson (.916)
Key to the Matchup: Wisconsin’s defense
Early on this season it has been a work in progress for the Badgers defense. But, it feels like things are coming together after last weekend’s performance against North Dakota. That’s especially the case in the finale, where the Badgers lost 3-2 in overtime after giving up 5 goals to ND on Friday night.
UW had a season high 25 blocks in the loss. Those 25 blocks were also the most in 16 contests for the Badgers dating back to last January.
It also appears that freshman goaltender Daniel Lebedef is coming in to his own quickly. He started Saturday’s game and saved 32 of 35 shots on the night. That came after experienced starter Jack Berry gave up 4 goals in taking the loss in the previous game. Lebedef came in relief and stopped 7 of 8 shots in just over 27 minutes of ice time.
Combine a defense willing to go all-out and a young goaltender that is pretty hot and you have something to work with. No longer do you need the offense to constantly be leaned on, and that’s very helpful to a group that has been under extreme stress early on in the season.
Friday: Minnesota 4-3
Saturday: Wisconsin 4-3
Both teams have played quality competition leading up to the start of their Big Ten seasons, so at least we have a fair comparison to work off of. That said, I don’t trust Wisconsin at home against Minnesota very much.
Yes, it’s a new era for the Gopher hockey program, but Motzko is more than familiar with the rivalry and with the Badgers program overall having posted up as the head coach at Minnesota-Duluth for more than a decade.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see a Badgers sweep here, but something tells me the defensive inconsistency due to youth may be at play early on in the first matchup and it’ll cost the Badgers overall on Friday night.
Minnesota’s defense is allowing an average of 3.0 goals per game, while the Badgers come in giving up 3.2 goals per game on their end. That portends a ton of lamps being lit in this series.
UW hockey sweeps Boston College to open season
The Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey program came in to 2018-19 without much outside fanfare. Internally, there was a lot of confidence.
That confidence has been rewarded, as the Badgers swept No. 10-ranked Boston College with a 7-5 victory on Saturday night at the Kohl Center.
Unlike the previous night, this was a wild one with both teams doing some incredible things on offense. Wisconsin continued the pattern of balanced offense though, as six different Badgers skaters scored goals in Saturday night’s win.
UW got the win despite a hat trick from BC’s David Cotton.
Tarek Baker, the big name from the night before came through tonight as well and leads the team with 4 points on the season after two games.
It was the Badgers first season-opening sweep of a series since the 2013-14 season as well.
“We’ve got a great weekend to be proud of,” said head coach Tony Granato after the game. “There’s lots of areas that we can get better in, but the one thing that we know we have, we’ve got workers, guys that play hard, energy and a lot of young players.”
It was also good news, as the Badgers finally were able to make the Kohl Center advantage count. It was UW’s first sweep of a home series since the 2016-17 season.
Wisconsin didn’t waste much time in this contest, with sophomore forward Sean Dhooghe tipping a shot from fellow sophomore Wyatt Kalynuk past the BC netminder.
In a sign of things to come, the Eagles answered less than a minute later to even the score at 1-1.
However, UW wouldn’t let the Eagles get a lead of their own just yet, as Kalynuk went for assisting to scoring a goal of his own at the 12:41 mark of the first period.
It was a catalyst for things to come, as UW got back-to-back goals from Tarek Baker (2) and Will Johnson to make it 4-1 at the 12:47 mark of the second period.
Wisconsin couldn’t keep its lead though, as they committed two penalties in less than five minutes. Those two penalties were capitalized on as BC put in three goals in under five minutes to tie it at 4-4
David Cotton started the scoring with a power play effort at the 15:28 mark of the second period. He netted a second at even strength just a few minutes later, while Graham McPhee put home a power play effort at 19:11 of the period.
But, that was as close as BC would come in this game.
The Badgers got back in the lead thanks to a Linus Weissbach goal at 6:32 of the third period. He was assisted on the goal by K’Ande Miller and Tarek Baker.
UW’s go-ahead goal would come from another youngster, as Brock Caufield put one home just under a minute after Weissbach’s goal to make it 6-4.
Cotton would cap off his hat trick effort with a goal at 16:45 of the third period to put the Eagles back within a goal. The visitors couldn’t complete the comeback effort though.
It was largely due to the efforts of Jack Berry, as the junior stopped 28 shots on the night.
Wisconsin got the final nail in the coffin from none other than Black, who slotted home an empty-netter with five seconds to play to seal the 7-5 victory.
It was a huge moment for a young team, but some of the veteran voices are already stressing the importance of focusing on what is ahead of them instead of dwelling on the past.
“It was a really good weekend of play, but we are already shifting our focus to what is coming up next,” said Sean Dhooghe after the win.
Wisconsin will travel to the state of New York next weekend for a split series with Clarkson and St. Lawerence.
Youthful Badgers blank Boston College in opener
A young Badgers squad cared little about offseason projections, instead making an early statement in a 3-0 shutout of perennial power and No. 10 ranked Boston College in the season opener.
Junior netminder Jack Berry stopped all 29 shots he faced, while two freshman — K’Andre Miller and Mick Messner found the back of the BC net and UW added an open-netter for the 3-0 result.
For those who were unfamiliar with the names on the back of the sweaters, getting this performance in the opener may have opened some eyes. After all, UW was picked sixth in the preseason poll of coaches in the Big Ten.
Head coach Tony Granato and his coaching staff weren’t as surprised though.
“I would assume for the people in the building that have never seen the freshmen, they liked what they saw,” said Granato after the game. “They left it all on the ice, they play hard, they block shots, they compete.”
Wisconsin and BC skated to a scoreless first period that saw little offense. The two teams combined for 12 total shots.
The scoreless draw was broken by Miller, who fired a shot from the circle past Eagles goalie Joseph Woll for a 1-0 lead at the 6:17 mark of the second period.
It was a perfect start for Miller, who was a first round draft pick of the New York Rangers in the 2018 NHL draft.
UW’s lead would double less than 10 minutes later as Madison West graduate Messner slammed home a rebound from his own original shot. Assisting on the goal was fellow freshman Jack Gorniak at the 15:57 mark of the second period.
It could’ve all turned around quickly though as BC nearly netted a short-handed goal to get right back in the game. Instead, Berry was up to the task, and it was a sign of things to come.
“On the penalty, the short-hand chance they had was probably the point of the game that if they scored there that could’ve changed the game completely so that save was huge,” said Granato of Berry’s big stop.
“He looked big, he tried to make them make perfect shots by being the right position. He looked just solid and calm, and there were points in that game where he made really big saves for us.”
Berry’s shut out was his fourth of his career in a Badgers sweater.
Sophomore Tarek Baker netted the final goal at 19:28 of the final period as the Eagles went empty net.
These two teams will skate again on Saturday, with puck drop at 7pm and can be head on 100.9 FM in Madison.
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