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After a one-sided 5-0 victory over Penn State Sunday night, No.16 Wisconsin dropped a 3-2 overtime loss to the Nittany Lions Monday.
What’s the Impact
The biggest upset of UW’s season came at the worst possible time, as the defeat registered a major blow to its NCAA tournament hopes. One night after UW jumped six spots into a tie for 17th in the PairWise Rankings (a process used to mimic the selection process for the 16-team tournament), the Badgers tumbled 11 spots into a tie for 28th with Colgate after the 3-2 overtime loss.
Wisconsin will have to basically win its next six games (four regular season, two first-round playoffs) to get back into the mix.
Relegated to spectators for the third-to-last weekend of league play, Wisconsin got the desired split between Denver and North Dakota. Wisconsin remains tied for sixth place with Denver (top six teams get home ice in the opening round of the conference playoffs and UW owns the tiebreaker with the Pioneers) and North Dakota is still within reach.
Who were the Weekend MVPs
Penn State goalies. One night after PJ Musico stopped 46 shots, Matthew Skott stopped 42 of the 44 shots he faced to get the Nittany Lions program its first win over a ranked opponent.
Three Areas of Concern
Power Play: Simply a terrible unit. Going 0-for-7 against Minnesota is one thing, but going 2-for-11 against Penn State (including 0-for-4 on Monday) is something entirely different. Wisconsin generated no offense on the power play Monday night and is again dead last in the country, converting an abysmal 10.9 percent.
Lee’s health: In a year where injuries have contributed to its scoring issues, Wisconsin lost its No.2 scorer, Derek Lee, late in the first period after a hit near the defensive blue line. Lee tried to go on the ensuing power play, but he left the game while favoring his left leg. Lee has already missed five games this season and UW’s struggling offense can’t afford to lose a key piece.
Short Turnaround: There’s no time to mope after this one as Wisconsin leaves in three days for Omaha in what are all playoff series from here on out. What kind of mood will UW be in after finishing a disappointing 7-7-3 at the Kohl Center.
Three Areas of Excitement
Good Rivalry Brewing: The toughness and competitiveness between the two teams this weekend should develop into a good back-and-forth, especially when both teams are competing for a conference championship. There were physical hits, fisticuffs and a lot of intensity. And with the outcome of the series, both teams have something to prove against one another.
Out of the Barn: Junior forward Tyler Barnes had a goal and three assists in a four-point game on Sunday night; the first-four point game for any Badgers skater in almost a calendar year. Barnes has struggled offensively most of the season but he has six points (two goals, four assists) in his last four games.
Even Strength: Next time Wisconsin has the opportunity to go on the power play, the Badgers should ask to decline it. Wisconsin is outscoring its opponents 62-41 at even strength this season, including 5-1 on the weekend.
“We have to primarily win out. That’s our task at hand.” – Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves.
Assured of a top eight finish in the WCHA, Wisconsin will play its final road series at No.13 Nebraska Omaha. The Mavericks (18-12-2, 14-8-2) sit in a tie for third place in the league with 30 points with North Dakota, trailing first-place St. Cloud State by three points.
Nebraska Omaha has played just six games at home since Dec.15, going 3-3-0 in that span.