Two major elements of the undoing for the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team Thursday night were old standbys from past seasons.
A quick change of fortunes and penalty killing shortcomings foiled the 14th-ranked Badgers in a 5-2 loss to No. 6 Michigan that brought a halt to a winning start to the season.
The Wolverines scored three times in the final 5 minutes, 22 seconds of the second period to turn a deficit into a two-goal lead going into the intermission.
Michigan scored on its first two power-play tries and made them look easy.
“You look at the overall picture of the game, we lost the game but there were lots of times during that game we felt we were in complete control and played some good hockey,” UW coach Tony Granato said.
The Badgers had only cutouts, a few scouts, members of the media and working staff watching in person as they made their debut at LaBahn Arena, their home during the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve practiced in the venue since it opened in 2012 but had never played a game there.
Saving on the cost of changing the adjacent Kohl Center from a hockey rink to a basketball court and back repeatedly over the season was one of the primary reasons for the move to the smaller building while fans aren’t allowed to attend.
Artificial crowd noise was pumped through the speakers to keep the building from being largely silent.
“As far as fans go, I block that out anyway so it’s not a huge difference to me besides a little bit of noise in the tenser parts of the game,” senior defenseman Josh Ess said.
In completing a season-opening road sweep of Notre Dame last Saturday, the Badgers quickly pulled out of what could have been a tailspin after allowing goals. On Thursday, the outcome was different.
In a tone-changing segment of the second period, Michigan (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) outworked the Badgers (2-1, 2-1) on one goal, made a pretty play on the second and used a defensive lapse on the third.
UW generated 31 of the 51 shot attempts in the middle frame but the Wolverines hit the net on three of their final four.
“They were just getting pucks to the net and good line rushes and we were getting caught in the neutral zone,” Ess said. “They got a little bit of momentum and kept flowing after that.”
Michael Pastujov outbattled UW forward Jack Gorniak atop the crease to get his stick on his own rebound and tie the game at 1-1 with the first of his two goals.
After UW’s Tyler Inamoto was called for interference, Thomas Bordeleau found a seam through the penalty kill to hit Brendan Brisson in the right circle for a one-timer that had the Badgers trailing for the first time this season.
“We should have been in better position to defend that one,” Granato said.
And with the clock winding down, the Badgers got sloppy in their own zone. Roman Ahcan appeared to slide too far toward the boards, giving Eric Ciccolini plenty of space to collect a pass in the right circle and fire past Robbie Beydoun (29 saves) with 3.2 seconds left.
Strauss Mann made 18 saves in the second period for the Wolverines, including a breakaway stop on Cole Caufield when the Badgers were leading 1-0.
UW missed a chance to start a season 3-0 for the first time since 2004. After going eight straight games without losing to Michigan in Madison, the Badgers have lost their last two in the series.
And they lost top-line center Ty Pelton-Byce to a scary-looking injury in the opening minute of the third period. The senior went face-first into the end boards at full speed after getting tangled up with Michigan’s Brendan Brisson.
Pelton-Byce spent a few minutes on the ice before sitting up and being helped into a nearby exam room. Granato said Pelton-Byce was “doing fine” and did not need to be hospitalized but he was unsure of the senior’s status for Friday’s game.
Ess put the Badgers ahead late in the first period after work by Caufield and Linus Weissbach freed the puck and Pelton-Byce moved it out to the point.
After falling behind in the second, Weissbach finished off a pretty give-and-go with Caufield on the power play resulting from Pelton-Byce’s injury to cut UW’s deficit to 3-2 in the third.
But UW captain Ty Emberson was called for roughing on a hit along the boards, and it took only 15 seconds for the Michigan power play to strike when Johnny Beecher was left alone in front.
The Badgers were 53rd of 60 teams nationally in penalty kill last season and allowed goals on the Wolverines’ first two chances Thursday. Having sticks in lanes is what UW was missing, Ess said.
“They’re a good passing team and have good vision so we have to be patient when they have full possession and come back and do it better tomorrow,” he said.
What’s different in Big Ten hockey this season? A look at standings, tiebreakers, travel, crowd noise
What's different in Big Ten hockey this season? A look at standings, tiebreakers, travel, crowd noise
Teams get a point just for getting to overtime.
The NCAA in the offseason approved a 3-on-3 overtime format for all of college hockey. Big Ten coaches and administrators then had to consider whether teams should get all three points in the standings for an overtime win or just two, with the overtime loser getting one point like in the NHL.
They decided that once a conference game is tied after regulation, both teams will get one point. The five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime and, if still tied, a shootout will determine who gets the extra point.
Victories in 3-on-3 overtime will be considered a full win for purposes of the standings and tiebreakers, a note that will come in handy shortly.
Standings will still be kept by points unless there's an unbalanced schedule.
Acknowledging the chance that Big Ten teams won't be able to play all 24 games on the league schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference introduced a separate protocol in case some teams have played more than others at the end of the regular season.
A team must have played 13 conference games to be eligible to be named regular-season champion. If there's an unbalanced number of games, the final standings and playoff seedings will be determined by winning percentage in all games.
Also new this year: The first tiebreaker is head-to-head competition. It had been the most regular-season victories.
There are changes in how many players can travel for road games.
The Big Ten didn't get a blanket waiver to allow all players to go on road trips, so the limit of 21 skaters and three goaltenders is still in effect.
But that doesn't apply when a school is out of session. Administrators also added a clause this year allowing a full roster to travel when a team is playing two series on one road trip.
How teams travel is likely to be different around the league, too. The Badgers, for instance, took two buses to Notre Dame for their opening series instead of the typical one.
Hockey will use the same color-coded chart as football does.
Big Ten hockey players and staff members are tested six days a week using the same antigen testing that has been deployed in football. An initial positive test then gets confirmed using a PCR test; another positive test there means a player must miss a minimum of 21 days and go through cardiac testing.
Decisions about the continuation of practices and games amid positive tests will go through the same green-orange-red scale for test positivity rate (number of positive tests divided by total number of tests administered) and population positivity rate (number of positive individuals divided by total population at risk).
With smaller rosters in hockey than football, however, it probably would take only three positive individuals to put a team on pause.
On-ice officials have to go through testing, too.
Referees and linesmen have to travel to the game site the day before the start of a series to take an antigen test. They'll also be tested on the day of each game.
Big Ten coordinator of officials Steve Piotrowski said he's scheduling one referee and one linesman to be on call at home in case a replacement is needed to travel because of COVID-19 or injury.
Officials also are being instructed to wear a gaiter mask during stoppages, and they've been given pealess whistles that are designed to release fewer droplets into the air.
Artificial crowd noise will be used in rinks.
The noise that will run throughout to simulate the murmur of a crowd can top out at 70 decibels, or a normal conversation level.
Those running the audio can do up to five seconds of a louder reaction to big events during play but that can't exceed 90 decibels, roughly the level of a blender.
The schedule is missing non-conference games except for against one opponent.
The foundations of the Big Ten schedule are no different than they have been since Notre Dame joined in 2017. Teams will all play 24 conference games, four against each opponent — two at home, two on the road.
What has changed is that non-conference games are out with the exception of four home games for each team against independent Arizona State.
The Sun Devils, ranked 15th in the USCHO.com preseason poll, started with a 22-day road trip that has them scheduled to play games at Michigan (Nov. 14-15), Michigan State (Nov. 19-20), UW (Nov. 28-29) and Notre Dame (Dec. 3-4).
Games against Arizona State don't count toward the Big Ten standings. The Sun Devils aren't eligible for the Big Ten regular-season or playoff championships.
There are more games planned for Thursdays than Saturdays at the start.
With crowds being shut out of games or limited to only family members, game times and dates have been more flexible this year. The Badgers, for instance, start their first six series of the season on six different days of the week.
The Big Ten released a portion of the schedule covering games from Nov. 13 to Dec. 20, and in that stretch there are two Saturdays that have no games planned (Nov. 21 and Dec. 5). There are seven Saturday games on the initial slate and eight on Thursdays, which in theory makes for less competition with football.
The Big Ten is trying to make games take less time to complete.
The conference was granted a waiver from the NCAA to shorten intermissions to 12 minutes from the standard 15 or 18 that are allowed in the rule book.
Also, media timeouts for games that are televised by Big Ten Network and games not on TV have been scaled back from three per period to one, taken at the first eligible stoppage after the 10-minute mark.
Postgame handshakes are over.
Instead, the teams will line up at their blue lines for a stick salute.
Michigan 0 3 2 — 5
Wisconsin 1 0 1 — 2
First period: W — Ess 1 (Pelton-Byce, Weissbach), 18:50.
Second period: M — Pastujov 1 (Bordeleau, Granowicz), 14:38; Brisson 1 (Bordeleau, York), 18:18 (pp); Ciccolini 2 (Beniers, Johnson), 19:56. Penalties: Lambert, M, :32; Inamoto, W, 17:40.
Third period: W — Weissbach 2 (C. Caufield, Baker), 1:01 (pp). M — Beecher 1 (Lambert, Brisson), 3:58 (pp); Pastujov 2 (Moyle), 19:00 (en). Penalties: Brisson, M, :18; Emberson, W, 3:43; Moyle, M, 9:23; Ahcan, W, 10:34; R. Donovan, W, 12:39.
Saves: M (Mann 4-18-4) 26; W (Beydoun 10-11-8) 29. Power plays: M 2-for-4; W 1-for-3.
In this Series
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