Hockey and basketball fans at the University of Wisconsin arrived in March with high hopes for the success of the NCAA tournament and the opportunity to bring a championship to Madison.
Sadly, hopes quickly faded when both the men’s basketball and men’s hockey teams left their respective tournaments early.
The only reprieve from the heartbreaking month of March of this year was for the Wisconsin women’s hockey team to take home their second consecutive national championship. The women’s teams electrified the city and brought hope that the men’s team could follow suit.
After suffering a near-loss to arch-rival Minnesota in the final of the Big Ten Tournament, the talented Badgers were poised to take on a long race in the NCAA college hockey tournament. Wisconsin star striker and likely Hobey Baker Award winner Cole Caufield was joined by several other future NHL players who saw the tournament as their chance to make a lasting mark on the schedule.
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The Badgers’ first round pitted them against a fairly small school in the far north of Minnesota, the Bemidji State Beavers. The third-placed Badgers seemed to tie in well with the relatively small school, and many fans watched past the Beavers to the nationally successful UMass team that was bound to meet them in the second round.
Unfortunately for Badgers fans alike, it would be the ultimate mistake to underestimate the Beavers of Minnesota iron range. Wisconsin waltzed out of the gates, allowing the Beavers to post a 2-0 lead after the first period. To make matters worse, the Badgers were outshot 16-7 in the first period. Even with the slow start, the Badgers didn’t lose hope and turned to Linus Weissbach for their first goal in the second period.
Even with Weissbach’s contribution, penalties led to another Beaver goal that extended the lead to 3-1 and forced Wisconsin to play more aggressively. The window was small, but with two goals from Caufield, the Badgers had hope. Unfortunately, the badgers couldn’t take advantage of power games over time, and they couldn’t stop the bleeding that started in the first period. While playing the Beavers fairly evenly, the Badgers eventually fell to their first-round opponents with a score of 6-3, ending their season for good.
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Even with the loss of Caufield and a talented senior class, Badger fans should be optimistic about the season ahead. While there will always be powerhouses like UMD and Saint Cloud State, the Badgers have been able to make a name for themselves in recent seasons.
Spurred on by the success of the Wisconsin women’s team, although the Badgers men’s team fell short this year, we will be singing the praise squad for the next few years as Madison continues to become a dominant hockey program among both men and women. athletics.
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