It's been 33 years since the Wisconsin and Michigan men's hockey teams last played a two-game series, but Saturday's finale had enough excitement to make up for that time off.
The closing minutes had some extra juice, as just moments after a late Wolverine goal was waved off, a big scrum left nearly every player on the ice in the penalty box before the Badgers could finally claim a 3-1 victory.
"That was a great product out there tonight. I think that the rivalry is back," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. "We go there in two, three weeks, and Yost Field House is going to be just a buzz. It will be great hockey again, so that speaks well for the Big Ten."
Senior captain Frankie Simonelli got UW on the board in the first period, and juniors Chase Drake and Joseph LaBate added tallies later to help the Badgers (13-6-1, 4-2-0-0 B1G) improve to 12-1-1 at the Kohl Center this season.
Those wins are starting to have an impact on attendance as well. 14,273 fans showed up Saturday, an increase of nearly 4,000 since last Saturday's game (10,309).
It was the flurry in the last few moments, though, that proved the biggest excitement.
With under a minute to go and Wisconsin leading 3-1, it appeared No. 8 Michigan (10-6-2, 2-2-0-0 B1G) pulled within a goal when freshman JT Compher beat junior goaltender Joel Rumpel. The goal was brought under review, however, and it was determined Wolverine sophomore Andrew Copp was in the Badger crease and interfered with Rumpel.
Moments later, Copp took a shot at a Badger player after the whistle, sparking a melee that included nearly every player on the ice. In all, six Wolverines and three Badgers were corralled into in the penalty box as the game came to a close.
"Just competitiveness," Eaves said when asked what sparked the late-game fight. "When you play a physical game, there's a competitive level that comes out and frustration arises. That's all that was."
For Wisconsin, this was its biggest pair of wins on the season. A week after dropping a disappointing series split with Alaska-Anchorage, the Badgers came out and earned their first sweep over a top-ten team this year.
With the victory, Rumpel improves to 10-1-1 on the season and a perfect 8-0-0 in his last eight starts. The Swift Current, Saskatchewan native now sports a .932 save percentage and a 1.85 goals-against average, the best numbers of his three-year Wisconsin career.
"It was big time. We took some good growth this week," Simonelli said of the sweep. "It definitely is a stepping stone toward where we need to be in championship caliber hockey that we need to be playing.
"From here on out with Big Ten play, it was a great weekend to start us off in the right direction."
- Michigan vs. Wisconsin Friday recap: Mersch's hat trick leads Badgers to victory
- Big Ten hockey preview: Michigan in town for B1G match up vs. Wisconsin
- Hockey Recruiting: 12 options for the 2014 forward class
- Ann-Renée Desbiens named WCHA Rookie of the Week
- Nic Kerdiles to miss Michigan series with shoulder injury