MADISON, Wis — Saturday night at the Kohl Center was filled with celebration, as four seniors were honored, all alumni were recognized and the 1977 NCAA championship team celebrated its 40th anniversary.
However, the Badgers (19-14-1, 12-8-0-0 Big Ten) were unable to finish the evening with a happy mood as they were defeated by Ohio State (20-10-6, 11-8-1-1) by a 3-1 score at the Kohl Center.
“The effort was there. I wouldn’t question our effort yesterday either,” head coach Tony Granato said. “I question the fact that we came out a little bit, waiting to see what was going to happen instead of trying to dictate how the game’s going to be played.”
OSU began the scoring just 2:46 into the first period on a power-play goal from Mason Jobst, his 18th of the year.
The Badgers looked to quickly respond, but they were outshot during the period, 10-7, and headed into the first intermission trailing by one.
Jack Berry made nine saves in the opening stanza.
The Buckeyes grabbed control of the game in the second period, adding a second goal 10:42 into the period on Kevin Miller’s 11th of the season.
Wisconsin wasn’t able to capitalize on two power plays during the period and were put in a three-goal hole on the latter man-advantage as Brendon Kearney scored a short-handed goal to make it 3-0 in favor of the Buckeyes with just over two minutes to play in the second.
“It’s pretty tough when they’re blocking a lot of shots. I think they had 20 plus shots this game,” Ryan Wagner said. “It’s kind of what coach said between the second and third periods, just throw a little fake in there and if another guy comes to block it throw it off the back wall. We can’t really be giving them all of those blocks like that because they build off that.”
In terms of shots on goal, the third period was the strongest for the Badgers, as they outshot OSU 10-5. Matt Ustaski seemed to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 3-1 after he beat Tomkins. However, the play was challenged and ruled offside, nullifying the marker.
Luke Kunin was eventually able to make it 3-1 on a power-play goal 11:37 into the final period. The captain finished off a cross-ice feed from Cameron
Hughes for his 21st of his sophomore campaign. Trent Frederic also earned an assist on the play.
The Cardinal and White continued to push for goals but they were unable to find the back of the net, falling 3-1 in their regular-season finale.
Berry finished with 25 saves on 28 shots on the evening.
“I mean obviously it’s disappointing,” Kunin said. “It’s not the way we wanted the weekend to go, but our group’s bounced back all year and we’ve had a lot of ups and downs but I believe in this group and what we can accomplish.”
The Big Ten tournament starts next weekend in Detroit and the Badgers will be the second seed in the single-elimination championship. UW will play on Friday, March 17 against the winner of Ohio State and Michigan State at 3:30 p.m. CT. Those two will play on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. CT.
The Big Ten championship games takes place Saturday, March 18 at 7 p.m. CT.