An ugly first period was too much for the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team to overcome on Thursday, even with a much better performance over the last 40 minutes.
Ohio State struck four times in the opening frame while the 14th-ranked Badgers looked disorganized in their defensive zone, leading to a 4-2 loss to the 13th-ranked Buckeyes at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
The Badgers fell to 0-3 since losing three centers and a wing because of COVID-19 protocols. Coach Tony Granato emphatically rejected playing what-if games about the absences of five forwards in all.
“We’re looking at it as an opportunity as opposed to feeling sorry for ourselves,” he said. “From that standpoint, it’s a great opportunity for us to grow. We grew today in the second and third period. The start looked bleak.
“We’re going to use these next three games, whether we’ve got 10 guys or 15 guys in our lineup, to try to play the same way: with character, with heart, with energy. And leave it on the ice. Our guys left it on the ice.”
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Needing more bodies at forward, UW gave senior defenseman Josh Ess a run up front for the first time in his collegiate career — and the first time in eight or nine years overall.
It was part of a lineup strategy, Granato said, that simply put players on the ice when they were fresh. There’s not a lot more to do when you have nine true forwards on the bench and three defensemen serving in unfamiliar roles to fill out the group.
“I’ve been practicing and trying to learn as much on film as I can,” Ess said. “I give those guys a lot of props. Forward’s a hard position. I’m still learning and I’ve got to keep getting better.”
The Badgers were out of sorts in the defensive zone in the first period and goaltender Robbie Beydoun fumbled a few rebounds. The combination was disastrous as UW (4-5, 4-2-0-1 Big Ten) fell below .500 for the first time this season.
Ohio State’s Gustaf Westlund beat Beydoun with a one-timer. Travis Treloar slipped home a rebound after he was left uncovered atop the crease in a mess of defensive-zone coverage by a UW crew that included four defensemen.
Quinn Preston was the beneficiary of a rebound that escaped out to him. And Grant Gabriele finished off a nice passing play on a 5-on-3 power play for the Buckeyes (2-3, 2-2-0-1).
Four goals on 17 shots in the opening frame was the end of the night for Beydoun, who didn’t make it to the finish for the second time in three games. He was pulled from an 8-5 loss to Arizona State last Saturday after allowing five goals through 30½ minutes.
“It was a tough start,” Beydoun said. “I would have liked to make one of those (saves) for the team. I just battled, tried to weather the storm.”
Beydoun has started all nine Badgers games in a span of 21 days but said he isn’t tired physically or mentally.
“I’m excited to play,” he said.
Freshman Cameron Rowe, who replaced Beydoun at the start of the second period, stopped all 14 shots he faced in his second relief appearance in six days.
The first-period calamity was the eighth time in the 2000s that the Badgers have allowed four goals or more in the opening 20 minutes. The last time they trailed 4-0 at the first intermission was Jan. 23, 2016, a game they lost to Minnesota 9-2 at the Kohl Center.
The Badgers also allowed nine goals the last time they opened a series in Columbus, the first game of a Big Ten quarterfinal series in March.
Things didn’t get to that level Thursday thanks to a second-period shift in tone by the Badgers, who found their footing with a 15-7 margin in shots on goal and scores by Jason Dhooghe and Cole Caufield 68 seconds apart to halve the deficit.
Mathieu De St. Phalle forced a turnover in the neutral zone and Dhooghe raced up the left wing behind the defense. He tucked a backhand shot in off the right post for his first goal in more than three years.
Caufield had a shot saved but Linus Weissbach knocked the rebound back out to him.
The Badgers couldn’t get any closer in the third period despite 15 shots on goal and another from Caufield with an extra attacker late that hit the post.
“We had our chances to pull within one,” Granato said. “Lots of good things in the game. And I know good things and being close doesn’t mean a lot when you need points but we’ve got to carry the momentum we created in the last two periods into tomorrow.”
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Wisconsin 0 2 0 — 2
Ohio State 4 0 0 — 4
First period: OS — Westlund 3 (Sadlocha, Singleton), 3:50; Treloar 2 (O’Connell), 6:55; Preston 2 (Ahac, Treloar), 15:36; Gabriele 3 (Westlund, Cheremeta), 17:19 (pp). Penalties: Gorniak, W, 16:39; Ess, W, 16:39.
Second period: UW — Dhooghe 1 (De St. Phalle), 13:41; C. Caufield 5 (Weissbach), 14:49. Penalty: Peters, OS, 10:30.
Third period penalties: Vorlicky, W, 13:25; Sadlocha, OS, 16:03.
Saves: W (Beydoun 13-x-x, Rowe x-7-7) 27; OS (Nappier 9-13-15) 37. Power plays: W 0-for-2; OS 1-for-3.
In this Series
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