Sean Davich’s full recap of Wisconsin’s 3-2 win over Minnesota on Saturday night is here. Here are my three takeaways from tonight’s game.
- Perhaps my perception is colored by sitting through a 1-0 sludgefest last night in Duluth, but this was a really fun hockey game to watch. Only five goals total thanks to some solid defense and the general reliance on fortuitous bounces in college hockey, but the play was up and down with good scoring opportunities all night. Credit the big ice at Mariucci and two skilled teams that wanted to push the puck up the ice.
It’s almost a shame the game was decided on what was basically a fluke goal. Jake Linhart could do nothing but shrug his shoulders after his wayward pass pinballed off Trent Frederic, among other impediments, into the goal for the game-winner. But that’s just the way it goes some times. It was a very even, exciting hockey game that could have gone either way, and Wisconsin just happened to pick up the bounce tonight.
2. I’m not sure I’m ready to say Wisconsin is “back” after or to where Tony Granato wants them to be at this point, but even if it doesn’t necessarily show up on their record, I think there’s a huge difference between Wisconsin last year and this year. Last year, the Badgers relied on a couple great players in Luke Kunin and Trent Frederic, but their depth, especially on the blue line was abysmal. This year, I felt like the depth was much improved. Some of that is the lingering effects of the four-year cycle Wisconsin fell into in the latter stages of the Eaves era, which has left a big senior class this year.
That resulted in a team that played hard and fast. I loved the way Wisconsin attacked in transition, which paid off in a beautiful goal by Seamus Malone in the second period.
The blue line is slowly being rebuilt. True freshman Josh Ess and Tyler Inamoto still have a ways to go, but Wyatt Kalynuk was extremely impressive tonight. That should probably be expected since Kalynuk is two years older than both, but he looked like he’s going to be a major player for the Badgers going forward. Peter Tischke is another Badger defenseman that has made big strides, and was a rock on the blue line tonight.
3. Once again I was extremely impressed with Casey Mittelstadt. He had an early goal on a beautiful shot, and created numerous other chances throughout the night. I read some complaints this past week that Mittelstadt wasn’t scoring enough to meet his lofty expectations, which is ridiculous in itself, but even more so when you look at the types of chances he is creating. He easily could have had three or four assists tonight thanks to some beautiful passing. A missed semi-breakaway in the second period(which came due to Mittelstadt making a great read to get himself into an open area) and especially a missed net in the final minute of the game will sting, but if he keeps playing like he is, he’ll pick up plenty of points.
The problem is that as much as I like the Mittelstadt/Pitlick duo, which was terrific every time they were on the ice, the rest of the offense just isn’t clicking for Minnesota. Their entire scoring punch is basically those two, and then sometimes a Szmatula or Gates Jr. contributing. They have the potential to be doing so much more offensively.