ST. PAUL, Minn. – Facing a hungry Ohio State team in the new Big Ten’s tournament championship game, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team turned to some old faces to come back from a pair of two-goal deficits and secure a second-straight conference tournament title, 5-4, thanks to a Mark Zengerle (Rochester, N.Y.) game-winner in overtime.
The Badgers (24-10-2) fell into an early 2-0 deficit, and wouldn’t lead the Buckeyes (18-14-5) until Zengerle powered home a loose puck just outside the crease 7:48 into the sudden-death overtime to give the Badgers the win.
The Badgers erased OSU’s 2-0 first period lead with a pair of power-play goals. The first came courtesy of Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, Wis.) with 23 seconds remaining in the first period, while Morgan Zulinick (Kamloops, British Columbia) knotted up the score 11:24 into the second frame.
Wisconsin wouldn’t stay even for long, as the Buckeyes responded with a Clark Cristofoli tally to edge ahead, 3-2, just 1:16 later. Tanner Fritz doubled the OSU lead 13:08 into the third period, seemingly dealing a crippling blow to the Badgers’ title hopes.
But these never-say-die Badgers fought back from the brink, scoring a pair of goal in short order to even the score and send the contest to overtime.
Seniors Jefferson Dahl (Eau Claire, Wis.) and Tyler Barnes (Eagan, Minn.) scored 28 seconds apart to tie the score after Ohio State seemed to take control with their 4-2 lead.
Dahl cut the hole in half after a long shot by Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, Wis.) hit Zulinick in front of the net and ricocheted to Dahl, who converted into the open net with 13:28 to go in the final stanza. Barnes quickly followed suit, as Zengerle found Nic Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif.) near the left circle, before the sophomore redirected the pass to an open Barnes just outside the crease.
Just 48 seconds after Ohio State took a commanding advantage, the Badgers found themselves in a 4-4 tie.
It would stay that way until Zengerle picked up the loose puck and deposited it into the OSU net in the overtime period.
And with that, the Badger had their second conference tournament championship in two years. A year after winning their final conference tournament as part of the WCHA, the Badgers won their first as a member of the new Big Ten.
Wisconsin goalie Joel Rumpel earned the win, stopping 28 of 32 Ohio State offerings, while the Badgers were able to tally five goals on 36 shots against OSU’s Christian Frey. The five goals that UW scored on Frey this game matched the five goals it scored on him in the three previous meetings combined.
UW’s special teams proved vital in the victory, as the Badgers punched the puck in twice on three power plays, while the Wisconsin penalty kill shut out OSU on four power plays.
Having secured the automatic bid associated with being the Big Ten tournament champion, Wisconsin eliminates what little suspense would have existed during Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show on ESPNU at 11 a.m.
The NCAA Tournament begins on March 28, with the Badgers’ seeding and region being determined in the selection show. Tied for third in the PairWise rankings, Wisconsin appears to be right in the thick of a race for a No. 1 seed.