Badgers fans should thank their lucky stars these two games weren't on television. Despite being ranked No.2 in both major polls (and getting five first-place votes in the USCHO.com Poll), Wisconsin was embarrassed two nights in row – losing 9-2 to No.7 Boston College on Friday night and 7-2 to No.15 Boston University on Saturday night.
What's the Impact
It's early in the season that Wisconsin can recover from a pair of embarrassments on the ice, but it does show that the Badgers' upperclassmen team is severely overrated … for right now. UW also missed a great chance to give itself a huge boost come tournament time.
The NCAA tournament selection committee revamped the postseason criteria this offseason. Not only is more weight given to wins on the road and losses at home, there's a bonus formula for wins on the road against teams in the top 20 of the power rankings.
Since it's a safe bet that both of Wisconsin's opponents this past weekend will be in that category throughout the season, and that the Badgers play only four non-league games on the road against ranked team, this was a huge missed opportunity.
Who was the Weekend MVP
Dropping to 6-13 in the city of Boston in the regular season, it's hard to find any player worthy of MVP honors. However, Wisconsin was in a goaltending bind with Joel Rumpel not making the trip, reportedly due to a leg injury. Junior goalie Landon Peterson was making some solid saves but getting hung out to dry to often by his defense Friday, so UW coach Mike Eaves pulled Peterson in the second period for walk-on Adam Miller.
Miller stopped 24 of 27 shots faced in 38:15 of relief action in his first road and second overall appearance. He played 3:52 in a game last season against Alabama Huntsville. In a touch of irony, his sister, Megan, is a goaltender for the Boston College women's team.
Three Areas of Concern
There are a lot of them, but here are the three that stood out like a sore thumb.
Inability to adjust: Both Boston teams play on a smaller sheet of ice, and the Eagles have proven to be one of the best transition teams in the country on that surface under legendary head coach Jerry York. Those factors caused Wisconsin to dig itself a 4-0 first-period hole on Friday (it easily could have been 7-0 if it wasn't for some great saves by Peterson) and were outshot, 49-21.
UW was better on Saturday (outshot the Terriers 42-26), but still made too many critical errors.
Lots of Minuses: Jake McCabe and Frankie Simonelli are the team's top defensive pairing, but the duo went minus-5 and minus-4, respectively on Friday night. Senior Mark Zengerle – one of the best passers on the team – had only one shot, Michael Mersch was minus-6 and Joseph LaBate was a horrendous minus-8 on the weekend.
As a team, Wisconsin finished minus-40 on Friday and minus-15 on Saturday.
Defenseless Defense: The nine goals were the most in the Eaves coaching era and the most UW has allowed in a game since 1997, giving the program consecutive losses for the first time since last November.
Three Areas of Excitement
Penalty Kill: After going 9-for-11 on the penalty kill last weekend, the PK was one of the few things that went right for the Badgers. UW killed off all five penalties against the Eagles and went 4-for-7 against the Terriers (75 percent for the weekend). Again, it's not great, but few things on the season were.
Still Streaking: With a goal in the third period on Friday night and an assist in the first period Saturday, Nic Kerdiles extend his point streak to 16 games dating back to Feb. 24 of last season. It's tied for the fourth longest point streak in school history.
Power Play: Mersch converted a power play goal on Friday and Saturday and McCabe also found the back of the net on Saturday on the man advantage, giving UW a 3-for-7 weekend (42.9 percent). Considering Wisconsin went 3-for-47 on the power play on the road last year, this weekend shows signs of hope.
"You talk about swings in the game and how we're going to take each one, I don't think I have an answer for how it got unraveled tonight. It did, we have to look at it and learn from it." – senior captain Frankie Simonelli.
The first of UW's six bye weeks (including one of three in the next five weeks) could not have come at a better time for the Badgers, who need to regroup and do some serious soul searching.
When the Badgers do return to the ice, Wisconsin will be at home against Lake Superior State, who has moved to the new-look WCHA after being in the CCHA since joining division 1 in 1974. The Lakers are 4-0-0 with a sweep at home and on the road. Lake Superior State also doesn't play next weekend, but has a home exhibition game on Tuesday.
Wisconsin is 3-1-1 all-time against Lake Superior State, including 2-0-1 in Madison. UW's only loss to the Lakers came in the 1992 NCAA title game.