Since the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team last was able to celebrate a meaningful victory, it had flipped months on the 2019 calendar and then replaced it altogether.
It was only a four-game losing streak, but given the time involved — 42 days since the Badgers’ Nov. 30 triumph over Michigan — it might as well have been an eternity.
A four-goal second period Saturday put an end to that drought in emphatic fashion.
Roman Ahcan scored twice in UW’s 5-2 victory over No. 8 Ohio State at the Kohl Center, just the Badgers’ second triumph over the Buckeyes at the venue in the past 13 games.
“We bounced back and played the game we know how to play,” Ahcan said.
What were the elements that the Badgers didn’t see in a 4-2 loss on Friday?
“Being smart with the puck. Puck decisions. Getting pucks behind their (defense),” Ahcan said. “Just playing a simple game.”
UW was a changed outfit Saturday, and only partially of its choosing.
Linus Weissbach, the team’s second-leading scorer, was suspended by the Big Ten for one game earlier in the day after his hit on Buckeyes defenseman CJ Regula on Friday.
Regula, who was taken from the ice on a stretcher with a neck injury, was released from a Madison hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.
Without Weissbach available, UW put freshmen Dylan Holloway, Alex Turcotte and Cole Caufield together on the top forward line. They were all plus-2, with Caufield scoring his team-high 13th goal of the season and Turcotte breaking out of a seven-game point-scoring funk.
The other big change was that the Badgers gave senior Jack Berry his third start of the season in goal. Daniel Lebedeff made 26 saves in Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Buckeyes but UW coach Tony Granato called the second score “a shaky goal” that “should have been saved.”
Berry made 27 saves, including a one-on-one stop on Carson Meyer in the final seconds of the first period with the game tied 1-1. A goal there could have been a major momentum swing toward the Buckeyes.
“I knew he didn’t have a lot of time, so I just tried to make myself big. He shot it right at me,” Berry said.
“There were big points of the game where he had to make big saves,” Granato said of Berry, “and he did.”
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UW scored twice in the opening 4:23 of the second period to take a two-goal lead, then extended the advantage to four before the frame was over.
Berry lifted an outlet pass out of his own end of the ice off the glass to Brock Caufield, who heard Ahcan calling for the puck down the middle. Ahcan tucked the puck around Buckeyes goaltender Ryan Snowden for his second goal of the series and a 2-1 lead.
Just 1:24 later — and not long after Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski rang the post with an attempt at a tying goal — Cole Caufield hit the top left corner of the net from the right circle.
Ahcan made it 4-1 when defenseman Tyler Inamoto’s shot hit him in front of the net and caromed past Snowden. Wyatt Kalynuk added a power-play goal on a knuckling slap shot that dipped below Snowden’s glove.
It was only the second time this season that UW scored four times or more in a period. The other was a six-goal middle frame in an 11-5 rout of Merrimack on Oct. 12.
Like UW (8-11-1, 3-8-1-1 Big Ten), the Buckeyes also made a change in goal Saturday, but giving Snowden (22 saves) the start was a result of No. 1 goalie Tommy Nappier being out with a lower-body injury. Nappier had his right foot in a walking boot.
De Pere’s Sam McCormick scored in the second period for Ohio State (14-6-2, 7-4-1-0) to cut the Badgers’ lead to 5-2.
Despite the victory, the Badgers remained in last place in the Big Ten Conference at the halfway point of the league schedule.
Gustaf Westlund scored twice in the second period, both times answering Badgers tying goals, in the Buckeyes' 4-2 victory.
Sean Dhooghe put UW ahead 1-0 with his first goal in seven games, a redirection of a Kalynuk shot just after a Badgers power play ended in the first period.
“All of a sudden, you’re behind when you thought you had a good start,” Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said. “They scored on their chances. I thought we were a little looser than we normally are.”
The lead lasted more than 11 minutes, but Ohio State cashed in on the power play for the third time in the series with a Ronnie Hein goal after UW’s Mike Vorlicky was called for slashing.
Ohio State 1 1 0 — 2
Wisconsin 1 4 0 — 5
First period: W — S. Dhooghe 4 (Kalynuk, Holloway), 6:32. OS — Hein 6 (Singleton, Myer), 17:38 (pp). Penalties: Holloway, W, 3:43; Preston, OS, 4:28; Vorlicky, W, 16:11.
Second period: W — Ahcan 7 (B. Caufield, Berry), 2:59; C. Caufield 13 (Turcotte, Miller), 4:23; Ahcan 8 (Inamoto, Pelton-Byce), 14:41; Kalynuk 5, 16:30 (pp). OS — McCormick 1, 17:12. Penalty: Hein, OS, 15:39.
Third period penalties: Messina, OS, 14:11; Holloway, W, 15:37; S. Dhooghe, W (double minor), 18:14; Ahac, OS (major, game misconduct), 18:14; Fadyeyev, OS (major, game misconduct), 18:14; Team, OSU, 18:14.
Saves: OS (Snowden 8-7-7) 22; W (Berry 15-6-6) 27. Power plays: OS 1-for-3; W 1-for-4. Att. — 12,192.