For how long the hockey season is (it's been over five months since Wisconsin played in its first game this season), it flies by. As I sit here in the second level of the Kohl Center, I am reminded by some of the memorable things I have seen whiz by before my eyes this season. Impressive individual efforts (Derek Stepan's two shorthanded goals last weekend), good team efforts (the sweep at Minnesota), and missed opportunities (two blown third period leads at Minnesota State, a late lead given away against Denver, and the worst, the three goal third period lead given away to Northern Michigan which resulted in a 6-5 OT loss).
Yes, that one. The game that, if Wisconsin had held on, would have put the Badgers in 13th place in the PairWise rankings instead of their current position of 19.
However, that's all in the past. The Wisconsin Badgers need wins now, and certainly have no time to sit back and reflect upon games past.
Minnesota State is in town for the first round of the WCHA playoffs. For those of you who forget, Wisconsin traveled to Minnesota State, gave away two third period leads, and left Mankato with one point two weekends ago.
The feeling was after that series, and after Wisconsin gave away a 1-0 lead against North Dakota last Friday and fell 2-1, that Wisconsin just could not hold on to a lead. I don't know if it was the kind of thing that caused Chuck Knoblauch to not be able to throw the ball to first base, because Wisconsin went through a run in four of five games through last Friday that saw the Badgers have a lead, but come away with just one total point.
So when Wisconsin finally held on to a lead against North Dakota on Saturday, and actually increase its two goal third period lead to three, it seemed as if Wisconsin had just climbed a mountain.
Whether the Badgers have overcome that issue will be answered this weekend.
Wisconsin finished tied for third place in the WCHA and won a tiebreaker with Colorado College to guarantee that the Badgers will not have to play in the Final Five play in game should they advance to St. Paul with a best-of-three series win over Minnesota State.
Minnesota State is the kind of aggressive team that could (and has) given Wisconsin fits. Always pressing, relentless, the Mavericks lead the country in shorthanded goals with 11, and their lack of a successful penalty kill at 80% shows that they're willing to sacrifice opposing scoring chances for an opportunity to create a shorthanded chance.
If Wisconsin can take advantage of that on the power play, it should be fine. The Badgers scored four times on the man advantage in Mankato. The problem is that Wisconsin has only drawn one power play in the third period in the last four games, so they'll need to continue putting on the pressure into the third period.
Where: Kohl Center
When: 7 PM CT
Tune in: http://vu.wsum.net/sports (WSUM Sports Stream) at 6:35 PM CT