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Wisconsin vs. Minnesota: 5 things I think I think

The sweep at the hands of top-ranked Minnesota hurts, but there will be brighter times ahead for the Badgers.

Mark Zengerle registered his 100th career assist vs. the Gophers Saturday.
Mark Zengerle registered his 100th career assist vs. the Gophers Saturday.
Larry Radloff Photography

Mark Zengerle will go down as one of the best passers in school history

This kind of got overshadowed over the weekend with the Badgers being swept by top-ranked Minnesota, but Mark Zengerle notched the 100th assist of his college career in Saturday's loss.

The senior center became the 14th skater in UW history to reach the century mark. The last Badger to get to 100 assists was Andrew Shier during the 1993-94 season.

"I thought Mark worked really hard this week," head coach Mike Eaves said after Saturday's game. "He was into it -- he had good patience with the puck. Sometimes Mark plays at a certain pace, but he changed the pace he had this weekend. So, I thought he played real well."

The assist came on the the first goal of the game, a nice wrist shot from captain Frankie Simonelli on a line rush. The point was the 128th of Zengerle's four-year Wisconsin career. For the season, the Rochester, N.Y., native now has a goal and nine assists through the first 10 games.

The sweep hurts, but overall, Wisconsin didn't play that bad

Wisconsin fans probably don't want to hear this given the sweep by its top rival, but the Badgers didn't play poorly this past weekend.

Sure, there are things that can be cleaned up. Michael Mersch's turnover on the game-winning goal Saturday was ugly. The team also didn't show very much fire Friday, which is puzzling given the circumstances. But overall, it's hard to complain too much about the play outside of the final score.

"I think we played a very tough team pretty well," Eaves said. "It was 2-1 with 10 minutes to go (Friday) night, it was 3-3 (Saturday) with less than 30 seconds. We said to the boys inside (the locker room), when you work this hard and you get this close and you don't win, it hurts. So, I think we have to build on that hurt and we have to get better.

"Nice thing for us, we don't have a bye week next week - we get to play again. So we'll get right back in the saddle."

It was a Big Ten conference series, but I couldn't tell the difference

And Eaves agreed...

"I don't think it will really hit us until we play Ohio State, and Michigan State and we're playing them four times a year," Eaves said. "This does seem like a little bit like the WCHA because it's Minnesota time."

Michael Mersch stepped up like a man following Saturday's loss

I was able to cover Saturday's game from Mariucci and was down by the somber locker room for post-game interviews following the loss. The media scrum with Mersch after his turnover cost the Badgers the game was one of the more gut-wrenching moments of my time covering this team.

To his credit, Mersch stood up like a man and took the blame for the loss, even though everyone knows one bad pass isn't the reason why a team loses a game.

"I let my team down tonight." Mersch said after Saturday's game. "Coach trusts me to put me out there. It's a tough feeling right now, but I'm lucky to have good teammates to give me a pat on the back and help me through a tough time.

"I should have just chipped it out of the zone and made a simple play. It's a tough feeling right now."

Before the turnover, Mersch had played an exceptional game. He set up the first goal of the game and had a goal of his own to tie things up in the third period.

"He was really good tonight for us," Eaves said of Mersch. "He was the guy who tied it up - he worked his fanny off. He was way better tonight than last night in terms of noticing him.

"It's a tough lesson, and it hurts, deep, because we were so close. Here's a guy who should know better, and it just shows that we're all human."

Wisconsin needs to work on faceoff coverage

The Gophers were able to score two goals off draws this weekend, and this isn't a new trend. Brady Skjei notched a goal in Saturday's game off a faceoff, and Mikey Reilly tickled the twine off a draw Friday.

The Badgers were also burned for a crucial game-winning goal on a faceoff two weeks ago vs. Miami. They also gave up more than a couple goals off faceoffs vs. Boston University earlier this season. In all my years in hockey, I've never seen a team give up so many goals on faceoffs.

"I think the key point was winning faceoffs -- at the end, they had two faceoff goals," sophomore center Nic Kerdiles said after Saturday's game. "We just have to play our role a little better there, and it starts with the centermen winning the faceoff.

"We played well -- we put up enough goals to win. We need to focus on faceoffs and playing our role in that situation and winning them, obviously, as a center. That's the No. 1 thing we have to look at right now, I think."

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