ST. PAUL, Minn. — Two trends in the inaugural Big Ten tournament were that the games were close and low scoring.
Only one of those held true in the championship game.
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The overtime goal was the first time that the Badgers led in the title game; they had previously erased a pair of two-goal deficits in the contest.
“It’s exciting for our group of young men to be the first team to win the Big Ten tournament,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “[Ohio State] had a great run; we were in their boots last year. They were a desperate team, they played their fannies off and they can walk out of this building with their heads held high.”
After some commotion in front of the net cleared way, Zengerle found a puck that was just out of the reach of Ohio State goaltender Christian Frey and deposited the game-winning goal.
“It’s still a little bit of a blur, to be honest,” Zengerle said. “The puck was hopping around, people were whacking at it in front in the slot and I just made my way around. It popped out a bit and I got a little bit of wood on it and I still don’t know if it went five-hole or under the pad. It was nice to get that one.”
The Badgers captured the postseason title last season in their last year in the WCHA in the same building as they won the first postseason Big Ten crown.
“It feels great. We came into this tournament this weekend wanting that,” Zengerle said. “We knew we were going to play next weekend no matter what, but that’s not the attitude we had. The attitude we came in with was we wanted to win.”
Ohio State’s Tanner Fritz scored at the 13:08 mark of the third period to give the Buckeyes a 4-2 lead in the game that Ohio State needed to win to advance to the NCAA tournament.
Fritz’s goal may have given Ohio State a two-goal lead, but it also set off an insane one-minute stretch of hockey.
The Badgers instantly replied to cut the lead back to one when Jefferson Dahl scored 20 seconds later.
Twenty-eight seconds after Dahl’s goal, Wisconsin tied it up when its first line completed a series of tic-tac-toe passes that led to Tyler Barnes scoring and tying the game at 4-4.
Wisconsin’s seniors scored the game’s final three goals.
“You’re playing against one of the best teams in the country with eight seniors and six guys in the top two teams in this league that were named,” Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik said. “We just had to take a step back there. We still thought we were in good shape. We felt OK at that point. We just didn’t generate enough to finish.”
The Buckeyes didn’t get a lot of opportunities in the first period. They had nine shots on goal but OSU cashed in on both of their golden opportunities in the game’s opening stanza.
At the 4:51 mark of the first period, Ryan Dzingel found himself on a breakaway with teammate Nick Schilkey after a puck got by Wisconsin defenseman Jake McCabe in the Badgers’ offensive zone. Dzingel opted to keep the puck because of a Badgers defender that had found his way into the play and beat goaltender Joel Rumpel high on the stick side.
Dzingel’s line wasn’t done scoring in the first. After he danced around in the offensive zone for a bit, Dzingel was able to get a shot off that was deflected out front and found its way onto Schilkey’s stick. Schilkey’s shot was kicked aside by Rumpel, but the rebound went right to Nick Oddo, who had a wide-open net and did not miss.
“It was their desperation versus our just going out and playing,” Eaves said. “We’re trying to end their season — that’s a very hard thing to do. They were playing for their lives; there was a gap there.”
The Buckeyes looked like they would be taking a two-goal lead into the first intermission until Drew Brevig was sent to the box for holding with 53 seconds left in the period. At the time, the penalty wasn’t such a bad thing for Ohio State — Brevig’s hold prevented Tyler Barnes from getting possession of a puck in the crease after a rebound was given up by Frey.
The Badgers cut the lead to one 20 seconds into their power play when McCabe snuck a shot from the point through traffic and by Frey.
Wisconsin kept the momentum and tied things up in the second when Morgan Zulinick picked up a puck near the crease on the power play and put it past Frey.
“The power play allowed us to get our feet under us,” Eaves said. “When we got down by two in the third I think the response of Dahl’s line really was a shot of adrenaline.”
Ohio State responded quickly and got a goal from an unlikely source. Junior defenseman Clark Cristofoli scored the first goal of his collegiate career when he took a drop pass from Max McCormick and beat Rumpel to the glove side.
“We gave it all we had,” Rohlik said. “Wisconsin just came on in the end.”
The overtime loss ended the Buckeyes’ season, but Rohlik said that he’s excited about his team moving forward.
“This is a huge positive,” Rohlik said. “Right now it hurts, but to get the experience that our guys got is priceless. To be on a big stage, to be one shot away from winning what this is, I think is a huge building block.”