EAST LANSING, Mich.— For the second Saturday in a row, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team defeated their opponent in overtime after giving up a lead late in the third period.
Finishing off an emotional weekend with the passing of legendary Wisconsin head coach Jeff Sauer, defenseman Jake Linhart ended the game 1:34 into overtime as the Badgers (15-8-1, 8-2-0-0 Big Ten) knocked off Michigan State (5-17-2, 1-8-1-0) by a count of 4-3 on Saturday night at Munn Ice Arena.
“They came out and wanted to get their season going by beating us tonight,” head coach Tony Granato said. “Fortunately, Matty (Jurusik) was real good early. That was a big part of the game and obviously when we got to overtime, we made a great play.”
UW led the game 3-2 late in the third period when Michigan State pulled its goaltender with 1:20 to go. MSU scored just 13 seconds later on a Brennan Sanford goal to make it 3-3 and force the game into sudden-death overtime.
“I think just the way we play now, our systems allow us to do that,” Linhart said. “We aren’t always going to have the best games but when we stick to our plan, support each other, we’re gonna come out with the W’s a lot.”
The Spartans dominated the first minute of overtime, peppering Matt Jurusik with shots but the sophomore goalie held strong in between the pipes before Linhart scored his third goal of the year from the slot on a nice feed from Seamus Malone.
The game went back and forth with the Badgers striking first in the late stages of the first period. Luke Kunin scored a short-handed goal with 1:51 left in the opening frame to make it 1-0 Badgers. Trent Frederic earned his 13th assist of the year on the captain’s 17th tally.
Jurusik made 16 saves in the stanza to ensure Wisconsin had a one-goal lead heading into the first intermission.
In the second period, which has been the Badgers’ strongest period offensively this season, Michigan State scored twice to give themselves a 2-1 lead heading into the third. Rhett Holland scored for MSU on a scramble in front of Jurusik which then sparked a fight that saw JD Greenway get a five-minute major for fighting and a game disqaulification. Greenway will miss the series opener next weekend against Penn State.
“We battled. I think that’s the fourth time in a row against Michigan State that we’ve gone down to five defensemen,” Linhart said. “It’s pretty tough when it happens that early, every time has been in the first or second period but we battled through it. I’m pretty tired right now, I think everyone is, so we’ll take the day off tomorrow and get ready for this week.”
Joe Cox then scored his fifth of the season 15:51 into the middle frame to give Michigan State their first lead of the series.
The final period turned out to be the Cardinal and White’s most effective, as Frederic squeaked in his 10th goal of his freshman campaign to tie the game at 2-2. Cameron Hughes and Cullen Hurley earned helpers on the play.
“He made some big plays for us this weekend. He’s heck of a player for an 18-year-old kid,” Granato said of Frederic.
UW then took a 3-2 lead on Cameron Hughes’ sixth goal of the year. The junior forward deflected a Corbin McGuire shot past MSU goaltender John Lethemon to put Wisconsin up with 9:55 to play in regulation. Hughes’ points extended his point streak to eight games.
“I think that segment in the third period was maybe our best hockey of the weekend,” Granato said. “We got the lead and then I thought we played really well despite the one mistake at the end.”
Jurusik ended up with 28 saves on 31 shots in the game to give him his eighth win of the year and fourth straight since returning from injury at the beginning of January.
The overtime victory gives UW its first five-game win streak since the 2013-14 season when the Badgers strung together a handful of victories from Feb. 15-March 8.
The sweep over the Spartans also capped off a season sweep of MSU, the first time Wisconsin has accomplished a season sweep since the formation of the Big Ten conference during the 2013-14 season. It also marked UW’s first sweep at Michigan State since December of 1977, though this was just the sixth series at Munn Ice Arena between the two schools since.
The comeback triumph was also the Badgers’ first win in 51 tries when trailing heading into the third period.
Conference play is now officially halfway done and UW still sits atop the standings tied with Minnesota after 10 games. The two teams share an identical 8-2-0-0 record in Big Ten matchups and sit eight points clear of third-place Penn State, who head to the Kohl Center next weekend.
“They throw a lot of pucks at the net,” Linhart said. “We’re going to have to be strong defensively, get it in our forwards hands and play offense as much as we can.”