Wisconsin got its home men’s hockey season off with a bang this weekend, matching up with USCHO.com No. 6 Boston College at the Kohl Center.
In the first home game of the Tony Granato era, the Badgers secured a needed early signature win on Friday, defeating the Eagles 3-1. The scoring started early as senior alternate captain Grant Besse scored the first of two Badger power-play goals at just 4:27 into the first. Junior Ryan Wagner added a second power-play goal in the second period to put the UW up for good and sophomore Seamus Malone found the net halfway into the third period to give the Badgers insurance en route to the upset. Sophomore goaltender Matt Jurusik stopped 29 of 30 shots, not yielding a goal until midway through the third period.
That's how you open your season at home. Badgers defeat No. 6 BC 3-1! pic.twitter.com/pwBMkLdhw2— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) October 15, 2016
Sunday was a different story, as UW dropped a wild and wooly Sunday matchup 8-5 (yes, you read that correctly) that was much closer than the final score. Eagles forward Chris Brown netted a hat trick and the Eagles added two empty-net goals in the win.
Jurusik struggled at times, letting in six goals on 25 before being pulled in favor of freshman Jack Berry midway through the second period. As he did in the season opener against Northern Michigan, Jurusik let in a soft goal less than 30 seconds into the game when a long soft shot from David Cotton slipped through.
After Jurusik let in his sixth goal of the game, the Badgers mounted a furious comeback, starting with an early goal-of-the-year candidate from Cameron Hughes.
UW managed to add two more in the third period before the Eagles iced the game with two empty-net goals late. Five different Badgers scored (Besse, Hughes, Wagner and freshmen Trent Frederic and J.D. Greenway). Frederic added three assists to finish the game with four points.
For those looking for a change of pace from the Mike Eaves era, the early-season returns are certainly positive. After a languid 18.6 percent on the power play in 2015-16 (including only 22 goals), the Badgers are at 26.7 percent in 2016-17 with eight goals already. They penalty kill has been strong thus far, keeping opponents at a chilly 0.08 percent (2-of-23). The third period is finally no longer a barren wasteland, as the Badgers have netted six goals already after just 23 in 35 games last year.
On the downside, Jurusik has been uneven and the defensive pairings never quite gelled on Sunday. (Very) early goals against both Northern Michigan and BC were killers in both losses, so Granato will need to tighten up the back end before the Badgers resume collegiate play in two weeks.