Badgers beat Buckeyes to move onto Big Ten finals
Hard-fought game pushes UW into B1G final on Sat.
DETROIT, Mich. — Headed into the Big Ten tournament, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team knew what they had to do in order to make the NCAA tournament and that was to win the championship. The first step was accomplished on Friday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.
The No. 2-seeded Badgers (20-14-1) took down third-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes (21-11-6) in a tightly-contested game by a score of 2-1, advancing UW into the championship game on Saturday night.
“I think today’s game is what you want to see in college hockey,” head coach Tony Granato said. “I think every inch of ice was battled for and it was two teams that understood what was available to them. I thought our guys played one of their most solid games of the year.”
The first period was evenly played, with Wisconsin having a slight 7-6 shot advantage. Luke Kunin opened the scoring 17 minutes into the frame after collecting a rebound in front of the goal and firing it passed OSU goaltender Matt Tomkins. The captain’s 22nd goal of the year was assisted by JD Greenway and Tim Davison.
Thanks to the goal, the Badgers held a one-goal lead heading into the first intermission. Jack Berry, who made several key saves in the beginning of the period, finished with six stops in the stanza.
“When Matt (Jurusik) went down and Jack (Berry) had to step in the first time, I think that’s when we realized he was an amazing goalie and he’s been stepping it up ever since,” Will Johnson said.
The Cardinal and White looked to build a lead in the second period, but Ohio State’s top-ranked power play capitalized on a Ryan Wagner tripping penalty on Dakota Joshua’s 12th goal of the year to tie the game at 1-1 with 6:12 remaining in the middle frame.
Despite giving up a goal, the Badgers limited Ohio State to just 13 shots through the first two periods while holding a 22-13 shot advantage in that time period.
With UW’s season on the line heading into the third period, Johnson netted his 10th goal of the year just 1:30 into the final period of regulation to put the Badgers up 2-1, a lead they would not relinquish. The sophomore forward slotted the puck into an empty net following a great pass from Seamus Malone. Senior Aidan Cavallini also added his sixth assist of the season on the game-winning goal.
“It all started with him (Malone) winning the face-off and we were able to get the puck out of the defensive zone,” Johnson said. “That first move he made around the defenseman was unbelievable and him getting the puck over to me, I just had to tap the puck in.”
The Buckeyes continued to push for a tying goal but a five-minute major and game misconduct assessed to defenseman Josh Healey with 2:28 remaining in the game gave the Badgers a five-minute power play. UW was able to pass around the puck for most of the extended power play and saw out the rest of the game without any threat towards their net.
Berry finished with 23 saves on 24 shots in the game.
With the win, Wisconsin improved to 16-1-1 when scoring first.
“At the beginning of the week, we just talked about sticking to the game plan and wearing the other team out,” Kunin said. “We were able to do that for all three periods and everyone bought in to what we had to do in order to be successful tonight.”
The Badgers will now wait for the winner of the other semi-final game between Minnesota and Penn State to see who their opponent will be in the finals. UW split the season series with the Gophers while the Nittany Lions took 3-out-of-4 matchups.
The championship game is set to start at 7 p.m. CT and will air live on BTN with streaming available on BTN2Go and on the radio on WIBA-AM 1310 and the Badgers Sports Network.
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