Had everything gone according to the original plan, Sampo Ranta would be playing his fifth game at the Kohl Center on Friday when the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team hosts Minnesota.
Instead, the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams will be Ranta’s first game here, and he’ll be in a Golden Gophers jersey.
Just a little more intrigue for the Border Battle.
The Badgers and the Golden Gophers face off at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Kohl Center.
Not much was being said publicly by the sides this week about Ranta’s interesting position between the rivals. Minnesota declined an interview request with the third-round NHL draft pick.
Badgers coach Tony Granato did have a little to say when asked whether it would be weird to have Ranta on the other bench this weekend.
“It’s gone and done,” Granato said. “There’s no other way to look at it. That happened a while back, so it’s not an issue for me. It’s a guy on the other team.”
Ranta scored goals in his first two collegiate games and had a point in his first three, but he was held off the score sheet last weekend against Minnesota State.
Caught on video
Here’s Badgers freshman Brock Caufield, a Mosinee native, talking about playing in his first Border Battle series:
Three more things
• Daniel Lebedeff will start in goal for the Badgers on Friday, but as of Thursday it was unclear whether Jack Berry will be available even in a backup role. Berry didn’t practice this week until Thursday, when his on-ice work was limited. Berry, a junior, has dealt with back issues during his time with the Badgers.
• Granato said this week that Minnesota looks a little different under first-year coach Bob Motzko than it did with Don Lucia as coach. But a lot of the personnel and style remains. “You know they can skate,” Granato said. “You know their D will try to get involved in the play. So offensively, they’re going to try to open it up, for sure. I think we’re going to have to be really disciplined on how we play and not allow them to get into a wide-open, end-to-end game.”
• Ryan Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed from the chest down in the bus crash that killed 16 of his Humboldt Broncos teammates on April 6 in Saskatchewan, will do the ceremonial puck drop before Saturday’s game. Straschnitzki has started playing sled hockey in his rehabilitation.
Put it in quotes
Badgers freshman defenseman K’Andre Miller, a Minnetonka, Minnesota native, on playing against the Gophers:
“It’s definitely one of the games on the calendar I mark. Playing Minnesota is one of the biggest rivalries. So just going out and going at it for a good 60 minutes each night, that’s just the love of the game. There’s a lot of good rivalries in sports, but this one is pretty special, being a Border Battle. I can expect both teams are going to come out hungry and ready to play.”
Here’s the projected Badgers lineup for Friday:
Max Zimmer – Seamus Malone – Will Johnson
Jack Gorniak – Tarek Baker – Sean Dhooghe
Matthew Freytag – Mick Messner – Jarod Zirbel
Roman Ahcan – Dominick Mersch – Brock Caufield
Extra forward: Jason Dhooghe
Wyatt Kalynuk – Tyler Inamoto
Ty Emberson – K’Andre Miller
Starting goalie: Daniel Lebedeff