ST PAUL, MN – MARCH 21: The helmets for the Wisconsin Badgers sit on the bench before the semifinal game of the Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Championship between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Penn State Nittany Lions on March 21, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Wisconsin Hockey: Series Preview vs. Ohio State

Last Season

Hockey fans rejoice!  Along with the temperatures, pucks will begin to drop.  Wisconsin hockey opens the regular season tonight against Ohio State and will play a two-game series.

The Badgers open the season full of hope, but the disappointment of last season still stings most of the fanbase.  Wisconsin finished tied for fifth in the Big Ten, with a disappointing 10-24-3 overall record, which includes a 6-17-1 conference record.

Coaching and play both contributed to that abysmal record.  Wisconsin buried only 53 goals last season and allowed 96.  Both statistics were at or near the bottom in the Big Ten ranks.

Ohio State was better, but not by much.  Finishing fourth in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes had an overall record of 22-13-2, with a conference record of 13-9-2.

The Buckeyes, aside from the middle of the road finish in the standings, finished near the top in the goal scoring statistics.  They scored 76 goals and allowed only 59.

The seasons could be evaluated very differently, but there is one thing in common.  Both teams are looking for improvement, and both fanbases are counting on it.


Starting Out

Ohio State opens the season as the No. 14 ranked team in the country.  They have already played two games and won both of those against Mercyhurst.  Eight different Buckeyes tallied a goal, with 15 obtaining at least one point in the series.

Wisconsin Hockey opens the season with not a lot of roster turnover.  Proven veterans are back and should be able to lead this squad.  Head coach Tony Granato is back for his sixth season and is only two years removed from winning the Big Ten regular season title.  There is hope.


Preview

Both teams come into this game with NHL draft picks and expectations to improve.

Ohio State lost major players to the NHL after last season, but is a perennial powerhouse and will just reload, and not rebuild.  Already off to a hot start, they’re looking to keep rolling.

The key to the game for the Badgers is going to be the freshman.  Prize recruits, such as Charlie Stramel, will have to come in and be immediate producers.  I look for that to happen and would not be surprised to see the Badgers split the opening series with the Buckeyes.

Keep an eye on the newcomers.  They will be a huge tell on how the season will go.  Lets not worry about the final scores here, but rather the play and feel of the team.  Improvement is the theme this season.


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