After upending Penn State, 2-1, in the semifinals Friday night, the University of Wisconsin won the inaugural Big Ten hockey tournament in overtime on Saturday night with a 5-4 victory over Ohio State.
Mark Zengerle got the game winner at 7:48 of overtime to propel the Badger to the title. Zengerle was named the MVP of the tournament after his game winner capped off a game where Wisconsin rallied from deficits of 2-0 and 4-2 to force overtime.
Wisconsin trailed 4-2 in the third period after Tanner Fritz scored his first goal of the season at 13:08 of the third. But Wisconsin responded with a goal by Jefferson Dahl 20 seconds later, and at 13:56, or 28 seconds after Dahl's goal, Tyler Barnes netted the game-tying goal.
Wisconsin was outplayed by Ohio State for the first half of the game, but UW had the better of the play for most of the second half. Goalie Joel Rumpel was not as sharp as he has been during the late run by the Badgers, but came up big on a 2-on-1 breakaway by the Buckeyes to keep Wisconsin within arm's reach.
What Does It Mean?
The victory clinched a No.1 seed in the 16-team NCAA tournament for Wisconsin, playing in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati. UW faces an old WCHA rival in fourth-seed North Dakota. In a bit of irony, the Badgers win clinched a spot in the 16-team NCAA tourney for North Dakota.
The victory also means the Badgers remain on a roll. Wisconsin is 8-2 in its last ten games. For comparison, Minnesota is 6-4-1 in its last 11 games.
The inaugural Big Ten tourney was not well attended, with about 9- 10,000 being the best for the games.
Penn State upset Michigan with a 2-1 victory in double overtime, eliminating the Wolverines from the NCAA tournament. Penn State outworked Michigan most of the game, and the Wolverines made some uncharacteristic mistakes on icings and offsides calls. In the late Thursday game, Ohio State beat Michigan State, 2-1, in overtime. The winner came in the first overtime among two teams very evenly matched.
In the early game Friday, Wisconsin outlasted Penn State with a 2-1 victory. As on Thursday, the Lions showed a lot of energy but after taking a 1-0 lead, the Nittany Lions gave up two goals to Wisconsin's Michael Mersch. Wisconsin controlled the puck for much of the last few minutes to get the win, as Penn State was never able to pull its goalie to get an extra attacker on the ice.
In the night game on Thursday, Ohio State shocked Minnesota with a 3-1 to prolong its season. While the Gophers outshot the Buckeyes, OSU showed more energy an opportunity. Minnesota remains the top-ranked team in the nation, but the Gophers need to refocus for the NCAA regionals.