Everything had been breaking just right for the Badgers on the last weekend of the regular season. They opened up their series with Michigan State by shutting out the Spartans 4-0 on Friday afternoon and then the Michigan Wolverines assisted the Badgers by whupping the Minnesota Golden Gophers 5-2 on Friday night.
That set up Wisconsin (19-8-1 overall, 17-6-1 Big Ten) to control their own Big Ten Title destiny on Saturday and they did not waste their chance. The nation’s leading goal scorer Cole Caufield scored twice to beat Michigan State (7-16-2 overall, 5-15-1 Big Ten) 2-1 and clinch the program’s first regular season title since 2000.
B1G things are happening!— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) March 6, 2021
The Badgers just claimed the Big Ten regular-season title! pic.twitter.com/0DivsBU4Pr
The first period was a cagey affair with both teams failing to score on the power play and it ended 0-0. The second period started off the same way but there were a few more scoring opportunities and then the Spartans broke through with the first goal of the game and their first goal in over 11 periods.
With the second period winding down, the Badgers and their nation-leading power play found themselves back on the man advantage. And then with 16 seconds left in the period Caufield uncorked a greasy snipe from the near circle and went bar-downski to tie things up heading into the final third period of the regular season.
️: Cole Caufield in his natural habitat— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) March 6, 2021
: Weissbach, Pelton-Byce pic.twitter.com/vKPBqDmLAB
It may come as a shock to you that in the third period Caufield was the one to break the tie and score the game-winning and championship-winning goal. Dylan Holloway stole the puck behind the Spartans net and, while falling down, passed into the slot where Caufield did what he does and put UW ahead for good.
️: Cole Caufield breaks the tie!— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) March 6, 2021
: Holloway pic.twitter.com/Fg2LS3ewOD
Freshman goalie Cameron Rowe, who leads all NCAA freshman goaltenders with a .943 save percentage and a 1.71 goals-against average, stopped 40 shots on the day including some huge ones in the dying minutes of the game.
This was the fourth regular-season title in program history (1977, 1990, 2000, 2021) and now the Badgers move on to the Big Ten Tournament (which they won in 2014) as the No. 1 seed. The Badgers get a bye, but will open on Monday, March 15 at 3:30 p.m. CT against the winner of Notre Dame-Penn State from Sunday’s quarterfinals. The event will take place at Compton Family Ice Arena in Notre Dame, Indiana.