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Badgers bounced from NCAA men's hockey tournament by Bemidji State
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Badgers bounced from NCAA men's hockey tournament by Bemidji State

From the Look back on State Journal coverage of Badgers men's hockey games in the 2020-21 season series
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BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Tony Granato wasn’t expecting to have to return to his locker room and deliver words to disconsolate University of Wisconsin men’s hockey players so soon into the NCAA tournament.

No one looks forward to that. But that’s the task the Badgers coach was given Friday when his team was outperformed on a big stage by gritty underdog Bemidji State.

“They found a reason and a belief in themselves that they could frustrate us and get to their game,” Granato said. “We never really did for any great length of time.”

A 6-3 loss to the Beavers in the first round at Webster Bank Arena had the Badgers packing far earlier than they thought they’d be. Three Bemidji State goals came off turnovers, one of which provided UW a haunting image from the regional semifinal.

Starting goaltender Robbie Beydoun laid prone on the ice with his blocker and his catching glove on his helmet after his misplay led to a short-handed goal by Owen Sillinger that put the Beavers up 4-1 late in the second period.

“I just didn’t make a good play,” Beydoun said. “It’s one of those where it sucks that it happened in that moment and on this stage. ... It’s just the way it was going for me today.”

University of Wisconsin men's hockey coach Tony Granato meets with the media after a 6-3 loss to Bemidji State in the NCAA regional semifinals on Friday, March 26, 2021.

Cole Caufield scored his 29th and 30th goals of the season in the third period as the Badgers tried to rally. But for the second straight game, a poor first two periods was too much to overcome.

“We had some collapses in the D zone, some tough turnovers and a couple bad bounces that led to them finishing their chances,” Caufield said. “Credit to them for playing a good game. It’s just tough right now. This isn’t how we wanted it to end.”

Make it 15 straight years that a regional No. 1 seed has lost in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The Badgers (20-10-1) also were a victim in their previous appearance in 2014 when they lost to No. 4 seed North Dakota.

The Beavers (16-9-3) defeated the Badgers for the first time ever — they were 0-6-1 in the series entering Friday — with grit and a strong defensive effort over the first two periods.

“We just wanted to attack,” said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore, who then repeated “attack” a few times for emphasis.

UW didn’t have enough of a response through 40 minutes, continuing a theme from its 6-4 loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament championship game 10 days earlier. The Badgers were outcompeted for pucks, made unforgivable mistakes and had to play from behind.

“I think there was a lot of issues,” Badgers captain and defenseman Ty Emberson said. “They outworked us. They outbattled us. There were a couple tough bounces in the first period. It just sucks to see it come to an end.”

The University of Wisconsin men's hockey team takes the ice in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for warmups before its NCAA tournament regional semifinal against Bemidji State.

A defensive-zone turnover by UW defenseman Anthony Kehrer gave Elias Rosen a free shot for a 2-0 lead with 15.1 seconds left in the first period. Kehrer’s pass for Linus Weissbach along the right-wing boards missed badly and went right to Rosen, who cut in from the right point to fire past Beydoun.

The Badgers drew within 2-1 on a Weissbach 5-on-3 power-play goal early in the second period, but Ethan Somoza scored the first of his two goals 12 minutes later.

The killer for UW was Beydoun’s turnover with the Badgers on the power play in the final 90 seconds of the middle frame. With Sillinger on the forecheck in front of him, the senior goalie faked a forehand pass but then went for a backhand off the back boards.

The puck was rolling, Beydoun said, and he didn’t get nearly enough of it. Sillinger raced past him behind the net, grabbed the puck and wrapped it around the left post for a 4-1 lead.

“I’ve been making similar plays like that all year,” Beydoun said. “I don’t know if the stars aligned for that kid to bury it.”

Cameron Rowe replaced Beydoun (24 saves) at the start of the third period. Defenseman Josh Ess’ turnover led to Somoza’s second goal and a 5-1 lead.

The Beavers will play UMass, a 5-1 winner over Lake Superior State, in Saturday’s regional championship game.

UW has lost four straight NCAA tournament games since defeating Rochester Institute of Technology in the 2010 Frozen Four semifinals.

“We didn’t expect to lose tonight,” Granato said. “We knew we were playing a great team. We thought we’d find a way to grind through it and get a ‘W.’ We have all year. Tonight, we just didn’t get it done so the season’s over.”

Bemidji State 2 2 2 — 6

Wisconsin 0 1 2 — 3

First period: BS — Armour 5 (Elias), 6:33; Rosen 5, 19:44. Penalties: Inamoto, W, 7:56; Vorlicky, W, 14:20.

Second period: W — Weissbach 12 (C. Caufield, Pelton-Byce), 2:38 (pp). BS — Somoza 14 (Miller, Harris), 14:42; O. Sillinger 10, 18:39 (sh). Penalties: L. Sillinger, BS, 1:29; O. Sillinger, BS, 1:43; Weissbach, W, 3:57; Johnson, BS, 17:15.

Third period: BS — Somoza 15 (Harris), 6:08. W — C. Caufield 29 (Holloway, Pelton-Byce), 8:19 (pp); C. Caufield 30 (Ahcan, Vorlicky), 14:56. BS — Harris 9 (Somoza), 19:58 (sh, en). Penalties: Armour, BS, 2:46; Solensky, BS, 7:34; Somoza, BS, 18:23.

Saves: BS (Driscoll 7-12-11) 30; W (Beydoun 14-10-x, Rowe x-x-10) 34. Power plays: BS 0-for-3; W 2-for-6.


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