While I grew up outside of Philadelphia as a Wisconsin Badgers fan, my fandom was restricted to football and men’s basketball. However, I have loved the Wisconsin hockey program since my freshman year (2003, woof) and the struggles the men’s team has undergone in recent years has been really disappointing. The fact that we are entering the final weekend of the regular season and UW has a chance to win the conference...well that’s pretty dang cool.
Firstly, let’s discuss last weekend. Three of the past four weeks, two Badgers have won Big Ten weekly awards. I’m sorry to report that only one player won an award for last weekend’s games, but at least it was the first star! Sophomore forward Cole Caufield (Stevens Point) was named the best player in the conference after he scored five points in two games against Ohio State.
@colecaufield— Big Ten Hockey (@B1GHockey) March 3, 2021
Had 2 assists in Friday’s 2-1 OT win for his 3rd-straight multi-point game
Noted his 2nd hat trick of the season & 3rd of his career on Saturday to become the 1st Badger since 1993 to record 3 hat tricks
#B1GHockey First ⭐pic.twitter.com/MwquCUBP5N
Caufield ended the weekend on a four game multi-point streak after dishing out two assists on Friday night and then scoring a hat trick (his second of the season and third of his career) on Saturday.
Speaking of winning awards, sophomore forward Dylan Holloway was named the Hockey Commissioners’ Association National Player of the Month for February. He led the NCAA with 17 points (6 goals-11 assists-17 points) and helped to take three of four games against top-10 Minnesota and Michigan in the month.
▪️ 17 points as a freshman— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) March 3, 2021
▪️ 17 points in February
Congrats to Hockey Commissioners’ Association National Player of the Month Dylan Holloway pic.twitter.com/NcYvpWPsHC
So, now let’s move on to the final weekend of the regular season. The No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers (17-8-1 overall, 15-6-1-1-1-0 Big Ten) travel to East Lansing, Mich. to take on the cellar dwelling Michigan State Spartans (7-15-2 overall, 5-14-1-2-1-0 Big Ten). Per the UW game notes:
The Badgers are currently locked in to at least second place in the final Big Ten standings, but can grab first place and the conference crown by performing two points better than Minnesota. The simplest scenario includes the Badgers winning both games at Michigan State and No. 3 Minnesota dropping one of its home games to No. 7 Michigan.
The Badgers, somehow, haven’t won a regular season conference title since the year 2000. They’ve won a national title more recently! As an FYI: the Big Ten regular-season champion will be determined by winning percentage in Big Ten games, with wins in regulation and overtime counted as wins and shootout results counted as ties for the purpose of calculating winning percentages.
If the Badgers are to win both games against the Spartans Caufield is going to have to continue scoring at a high clip. It took Caufield 26 games to reach 20 goals this season. That makes him the quickest to reach the milestone since Gary Shuchuck scored 20 in the first 21 games during the 1989-90 season on his way to a 41-goal campaign.
We’ll have another open thread for the games this weekend as the games will air on Friday at 3 p.m. CST and Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CST. Both will air on 1310 WIBA and the Badger Sports Network and Saturday’s game will be on Big Ten Network, immediately followed by the Minnesota/Michigan game.