DETROIT – Here are three takeaways from second-seeded Wisconsin’s 2-1 victory against No. 3-seed Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinal at Joe Louis Arena.
1. The reality is you can’t tell the story of the game without mentioning the NCAA Tournament. Conference supremacy is on the line this weekend, of course, but the reality was Ohio State would have punched its ticket to the postseason with a win and Wisconsin’s season would have been over with a loss. Instead, the Badgers – in their first year under coach Tony Granato – kept their campaign alive and now the Buckeyes must watch, wait, and root for favorites. There was an air of playoff desperation – in a good way – about the game, as each team knew its fate with a loss, and it led to a game that occasionally was a back-and-forth “ping-pong match,” as Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik put it. But that desperation helped Wisconsin shut down a Buckeye attack that had scored eight goals a week before in a two-game sweep in Madison.
2. Wisconsin freshman goaltender Jack Berry grew up about 50 miles north of Detroit in Holly, Mich., and his first pro sports event as a kid was a Detroit Red Wings game. He walked on at Wisconsin this year and, after an injury last weekend to Matt Jurusik, started and played the Badgers into the Big Ten title game. OK, it’s not quite a Cinderella story - Berry had played in 22 games this year, time he had earned through his play – but it is still a great storyline. Berry was fantastic for Wisconsin, making his biggest save at 2-1 in the third when he kicked aside OSU star Nick Schilkey’s shot from the slot. He also turned aside Buckeye freshman Tanner Laczynski – who was on Team USA’s gold-medal-winning World Juniors squad – a couple of times in the first. “I had a blast out there,” Berry said afterward. “If you were zooming a camera on me, I probably had a smile on my face. It’s pretty surreal.”
3. Ohio State entered the game with the nation’s second-best scoring offense thanks in part to a power play operating at a clip well over 30 percent, tops in the country. Looking for reasons why Wisconsin was able to keep the Buckeyes’ offense well below its usual output? The Badgers took just two minor penalties in the game, and though the Buckeyes scored their lone goal on the power play, they simply didn’t get many chances to get the man-advantage cooking. “I thought tonight with how much we had the puck, how much we played in the offensive zone, you take less penalties because the other team is chasing you around,” Granato said. “I thought maybe that was part of last week’s issue. We had to do a lot of hooking and holding because we played a lot without the puck. I thought tonight that was a huge difference.”