The Big Ten season has not even started and the Wisconsin Badgers are already showing marked improvement on last year. Wisconsin went on the road this past weekend with dates at the No. 18 St. Lawrence Saints on Friday and the Clarkson Golden Knights on Saturday. The Badgers came away with wins against both, bringing their record to 4-2-0-0 on the year.
With the victories, Wisconsin is now halfway toward meeting its total number of wins from the 2015-16 campaign and is off to the best start to a Badgers season since 2007-08. Sophomore captain (and first-round NHL draft pick) Luke Kunin has been as good as expected, picking up the Big Ten Second Star of the Week on Tuesday for his performance over the weekend.
So far this year, Wisconsin is showing some of the more wide-open play that coach Tony Granato spoke about during the preseason. The offensive numbers are striking and on a level not seen for 23 years. Last year, the Badgers only managed 2.66 goals on 30.5 shots per game. So far early in 2016-17, they are scoring an impressive 4.3 goals on 31.8 shots per game. The penalty kill is at 87.2 percent, up from 82.4 percent last year. Power-play conversion is also up with the Badgers converting 22.5 percent (18.6 percent in 2015-16).
Friday at St. Lawrence
Once again, sophomore goaltender Matt Jurusik got beat on a soft early goal in the first period when Joe Sullivan put on past him at 17:50. Kunin and junior Jason Ford netted goals early in the second period before the Saints tied it on Taggart Corriveau’s goal midway through the period.
Freshmen phenom Trent Frederic put the Badgers ahead for good early in the third, assisted by Ryan Wagner. Wagner added his own midway through the third before Kunin added an empty netter to seal the game.
Badgers win! They take it 5-2 over No. 18 St. Lawrence after three third-period goals! pic.twitter.com/otA25Gmdjt— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) October 29, 2016
Saturday at Clarkson
Seamus Malone got the scoring started midway through the first period, assisted by Tim Davison and Wagner, followed a minute-and-a-half later by Kunin’s third goal of the weekend, assisted by senior assistant captain Grant Besse and Jake Linhart. Clarkson pulled one back late in the first to make it 2-1 and tied the game less than a minute into the second on a goal by Jordan Boucher.
Junior Cullen Hurley put the Badgers back on top just two minutes later, assisted by Kunin and junior Cameron Hughes. That was enough for Clarkson goaltender Steve Perry who was pulled in favor of Jake Kielly.
The change of netminders wasn’t enough as Corbin McGuire nabbed the game-winner less than two and half minutes later. Boucher added a goal late in the second for Clarkson. Besse capped the Badgers scoring 15 seconds into the third, assisted by Kunin and McGuire. Clarkson made it interesting, bringing the score to 5-4 with about three and a half minutes left in the game as Boucher scored his third for the hat trick, but the Badgers held on for the win.
Badgers win! They sweep the weekend series in upstate New York after defeating Clarkson 5-4! pic.twitter.com/olSbHkaRbU— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) October 30, 2016
Around the Big Ten (USCHO.com Rankings)
- No. 11 Ohio State (0-0-0-0 Big Ten; 5-0-2 overall): Defeated Niagara 10-2 and 6-2 (at Niagara). The Buckeyes are the only undefeated team in the country and lead the nation with 99 points, scoring five goals in each of the last four games (4.86 goals/game overall). Freshman Matthew Weis was named Big Ten First Star of the Week. Sophomore defenseman Tommy Parran was named Big Ten Third Star of the Week
- No. 13 Minnesota (0-0-0-0 Big Ten; 3-2-1 overall): Defeated Clarkson 4-3 in OT (at Clarkson); tied St. Lawrence 2-2 (at St. Lawrence).
- No. 14 Penn State (0-0-0-0 Big Ten; 5-1-1 overall): Defeated Canisius 4-1 and 4-2 (at Penn State). The Nittany Lions are off to their best start in in program history and lead the nation with 43.57 shots on goal per game.
- No. 17 Michigan (0-0-0-0 Big Ten; 3-3-1 overall): Lost to Vermont 3-0 (at Vermont); lost to Dartmouth 3-2 (at Dartmouth).
- Michigan State (0-0-0-0 Big Ten; 1-4-0 overall): Defeated Princeton 6-2 (at Princeton).
Badgers in the NHL
- Rene Bourque scored his first goal for the Colorado Avalanche, at the same time recording his 300th NHL point.
- Ryan Suter is having a great beginning of the year for the Minnesota Wild as he is tied for first among defensemen in points (tied for third among all players) through Oct. 31.
- Ryan McDonagh is also off to a hot start for the New York Rangers, leading all players in primary assists and ranking sixth among defensemen in even-strength ice time.