No. 16 Wisconsin men’s hockey did itself no favors this weekend.
With the inside track for an NCAA tournament berth, all the Badgers (19-14-1 overall, 12-8-0-0 Big Ten) needed to do was to grab a split against No. 15 Ohio State (20-10-6, 11-8-1-1) to solidify their postseason position. Their high-scoring offense went cold, however, and Wisconsin dropped both games at home to Ohio State, 5-1 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday.
On Friday, the Buckeyes jumped on freshman goaltender Jack Berry for three goals before Wisconsin could muster a response. Ohio State would add two more, chasing Berry early in the third period. That would be costly for the Badgers as his replacement, sophomore Matt Jurusik, injured his left leg just three minutes in and had to leave the game. Berry and fellow freshman John Blomquist would finish the 5-1 loss for the Badgers, who may be without Jurusik for a while.
Berry returned to goal on Saturday and while he looked better, the Wisconsin offense did not. Ohio State once again jumped out to a three-goal lead before sophomore captain Luke Kunin managed to pull one back on a power play midway through the third period. By then it was too little, too late for Wisconsin with Ohio State going on to win the game 3-1.
The captain's 21st goal of the year to make it a two-goal game. pic.twitter.com/8wO6xIGfQQ— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) March 12, 2017
With the losses, Wisconsin is now predicted to be on the outside looking in for the NCAA tournament and may need to win the Big Ten tournament to advance.
The Badgers did receive some good news on that front over the weekend, however, as Michigan upset No. 11 Penn State on Friday. The Nittany Lions’ loss was Wisconsin’s gain, as the Badgers locked in second place in the Big Ten and a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
The tournament kicks off on March 16 in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. Minnesota (23-10-3, 14-5-1-0) finished as the Big Ten regular-season champion and received the top seed.
Wisconsin will get the winner of Ohio State-Michigan State on Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET. The Badgers might do well for the third-seeded Buckeyes to advance, giving Wisconsin a chance for another quality win against an opponent currently predicted to be in the NCAA field. A loss in the Big Ten semifinal probably ends Wisconsin’s season.
The full bracket: