With three ranked teams dotting its final three weekends of the regular season, Saturday represented Wisconsin’s last chance to get a crucial three points against one of the league’s two sub.-500 teams.
When the final horn sounded, it was a likely and unlikely hero that proved to be the difference.
Defenseman Peter Tischke’s redirection goal at 11:03 was the winner for No. 20 Wisconsin but the Badgers’ 6-4 victory over Michigan to complete the weekend sweep was due in large part to freshman center Trent Frederic and senior winger Aidan Cavallini.
Frederic and Cavallini sit on opposite ends of the spectrum, both in years and in production, but they co-existed perfectly in the series finale, each scoring a pair of goals that helped gloss over a lot of flubs by Wisconsin (17-10-1, 10-4-0-0 Big Ten) before its upcoming gauntlet.
The 29th overall pick by the Boston Bruins in the 2016 draft, Frederic scored just eight seconds after the opening face-off (a school record for quickest goal) and delivered a short-handed tally at 17:51 in the first period to tie the score at 2. Frederic has had a hand in all five UW short-handed goals this season (two goals, three assists) and has points in six consecutive games (seven goals, five assists), 11 of his last 12 and 14 of 16.
“The puck was coming to me and guys were making nice plays,” said Frederic, who also scored twice Friday. “I just happened to be there. It was a good weekend, and it was good to get two wins.”
Cavallini – an NHL free agent – had only four assists through his first three years in the program, but the 5-foot-10 forward was bumped up from the fourth to the second line to start a game for the first time in his career. He rewarded his coach’s decision by scoring his fourth and fifth goals of the season (and the first two at home).
“He’s been a workhorse for us all year,” Wisconsin coach Tony Granato said. “His role has become more important as we’ve gone along. I think just his consistency on how he’s played has put us in position where we want him on the ice.”
Junior assistant captain Cameron Hughes added three assists – giving him a team-best 22 on the season – and sophomore goalie Matt Jurusik made 34 saves to help the Badgers beat Michigan (9-16-3, 2-10-2-2) three times in one season for the first time since 1980-81.
Getting four even-strength goals from four different sources, the Wolverines wiped out Wisconsin’s first two one-goal leads in a combined 86 seconds and outshot the Badgers, 38-29, but couldn’t overcome lapses on the power play and with an extra attacker.
“We scored four goals on the road,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said, whose team has won once in the last 10 games. “Most years that’s going to win you a game. Not this year.”
Wisconsin remained three points behind Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten standings. The teams square off next weekend in Minneapolis.
“Minnesota-Wisconsin, it doesn’t matter what the records are,” Granato said. “But now that you see them 1-2 in the standings, it’s only going to be that much more meaningful and exciting.”
Big Ten roundup
No. 5 Minnesota 4, No. 9 Penn State 3, OT
Freshman Rem Pitlick’s shot through traffic with 1:33 remaining in overtime capped a wild finish for Minnesota, which scored three times in the third period to steal a victory over Nittany Lions to complete the season sweep.
Getting a face-off in the offensive zone with seven seconds left and trailing 3-2, Justin Kloos corralled a loose puck from a scrum in the circle and his shot through traffic got past Nittany Lions goalie Peyton Jones – perfectly screened by forward Vinni Lettieri – with 3.5 seconds remaining.
Kloos also assisted on the overtime winner, drawing a pair of defensemen before leaving the puck for Pitlick above the left circle. Minnesota likely doesn’t end the night alone in first place without goalie Eric Schierhorn, who delivered a career-high 42 saves.
Minnesota is 7-2-1 against top-10 teams this season, including a perfect 3-0-0 on the road and 4-0-0 against Penn State. The Nittany Lions are 2-6-1 since earning the program’s first USCHO No.1 ranking Jan.16.
No. 14 Ohio State 4, Michigan State 3
Forward Mathew Weis scored the winning goal 1:48 into the third period to give the visiting Buckeyes a weekend sweep at Munn Ice Arena. Getting goals from four different players and assists from six others, Ohio State notched two power-play goals, including the winner when a deflection off the face-off gave Weis an open window glove side. The victory moves the Buckeyes to third place in the Big Ten.
Mason Appleton added a goal and an assist for the Spartans, who have been swept seven times this season (five in conference play).