MINNEAPOLIS — How does a team respond after coming away with precious little from a four-game stretch in which it could taste victory each time?
In the case of the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team, this week’s practices seemed to have a little extra anger. How that translates to the series against Minnesota that begins Friday (7 p.m., FSW+, 1310 AM) at 3M Arena at Mariucci remains to be seen.
What UW players have said since their most recent close call, a 2-2 tie and 3-on-3 overtime loss to Notre Dame last Sunday is that there’s still a belief within the team that they can turn things around.
“We’re not giving up,” senior alternate captain Seamus Malone said. “We’re just an extra step away from being a really … good team. So I think we’ve just got to keep working, keep getting at it and keep playing our hockey, and eventually it’s going to click and eventually we’re going to be winning some hockey games back to back.”
There’s no time like the present for the Badgers, who are winless in their last four games after going without a loss in the six games before that. In the past four contests, UW was tied in the third period each time.
The Badgers will have to put things together away from home: Eight of their next 10 games are on the road. UW plays at Michigan State next weekend, returns home to play Ohio State then goes right back on the road for series at Notre Dame and Penn State.
The last time UW had to play on the road on four of five weekends was in February and March of the disastrous 2014-15 season. The Badgers went 2-8 in that stretch en route to a 4-26-5 final record.
“This is going to be a good stretch on the road to see where our team is and see how much character we really have,” Malone said. “This is going to make or break our team. So we’ll hopefully step up and play the hockey we need to play.”
The Badgers are 1-5-3 away from the Kohl Center this season.
Caught on video
Roman Ahcan, a Savage, Minnesota, native, talks about playing near home and changing lines:
Three more things
• All four forward lines will look a little different than they did in last Sunday’s game. (See the projected lines below.) Granato said he was hesitant to break up the line of Ahcan, Dominick Mersch and Brock Caufield after it scored five of the team’s nine goals in the last three games, but he said the changes would be good for all of the lines. “This is something we think is going to help our team in the long run and help the players that we’re moving,” Granato said.
• Badgers goalie Daniel Lebedeff said it took eight stitches to close the cut on his neck suffered when he was clipped by the skate blade of Notre Dame’s Michael Graham last Friday. Graham tripped after scoring, and his left skate came up and hit Lebedeff in the mask, then his right skate followed through against Lebedeff’s neck. Lebedeff skated right to the bench and then quickly off the ice. This week, Lebedeff was practicing with a clear plastic dangling protector at the bottom of his mask. “I got lucky with that,” he said of the events, knowing the outcome could have been a lot worse.
• The last time the Badgers and Golden Gophers both had losing records at the start of a Border Battle series was March 5, 1999. UW won that series in Minneapolis with a 6-4 victory and 2-2 tie. The Badgers won all five meetings next season for a seven-game unbeaten streak that’s the second-longest in the Badgers’ favor in the all-time series between the teams. UW went 6-0-2 in an eight-game stretch from March 3, 1973, to Dec. 27, 1974.
Put it in quotes
Granato, on this week’s series:
“I think we’re to the point now that we know we’re going into a building that, no matter what season it is, no matter what the standings are, you get a chance to play against the Gophers. When the schedule comes out, our fans, our players, our coaches, we go, ‘When are we playing Minnesota?’ Because that’s the marquee matchup of the year.”
Here’s the projected Badgers lineup for Friday’s game:
Jack Gorniak – Seamus Malone – Will Johnson
Roman Ahcan – Tarek Baker – Sean Dhooghe
Linus Weissbach – Dominick Mersch – Brock Caufield
Jason Dhooghe – Mick Messner – Jarod Zirbel
Extra forward: Max Zimmer
Wyatt Kalynuk – Tyler Inamoto
K’Andre Miller – Ty Emberson
Starting goalie: Jack Berry