Wednesday, August 17, 2022

FINAL: Wisconsin 2, MSU 1, Cole Caufield too much to handle, spoils MSU's good game

March 6, 2021
<p>Wisconsin Associate Head Coach Mark Osiecki celebrates a game-tying goal against the Spartans on March 6, 2021. The Badgers went on to complete the comeback victory with another goal in the third period, clinching the Big Ten title.</p>

Wisconsin Associate Head Coach Mark Osiecki celebrates a game-tying goal against the Spartans on March 6, 2021. The Badgers went on to complete the comeback victory with another goal in the third period, clinching the Big Ten title.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

With not much to play for Saturday afternoon for the Michigan State hockey team and a Big Ten regular season championship on the line for their opponent, Wisconsin, the Spartans could have easily mailed this one in.

They did nothing of the sort.

Yes, it was a 2-1 defeat at the hands of No. 5 Wisconsin, but the effort, passion and determination to win was there for MSU for the first time in a long time.

After a back and forth first period with each team getting great scoring chances complemented by even better goaltending, the Spartans finally broke the scoreless tie 13 minutes into the second period.

There was a scramble for the puck in front of the Wisconsin net that found its way to the stick of MSU graduate student forward Charlie Combs. He corralled it in the slot, quickly fired it and beat Wisconsin starting goaltender Cameron Rowe on a shot that may have surprised him.

That goal was not just important for breaking the miserable 238-minute scoreless drought and giving the Spartans their first lead in a game since Feb. 15 against Arizona State, but it was also forward Mitchell Lewandwoski’s 100th career point wearing green and white.

“He has been just a real, real good citizen and a real, real good teammate," MSU Head Coach Danton Cole said. "That is the kind of guy you love having around. He is going to get a good degree and hopefully play some hockey after here and maybe even get paid for it. He has meant an awful lot. You can be a great hockey player and be an idiot and no one wants you around, but he is that rare real good hockey player and outstanding young man.”

The Spartans' penalty kill impressively fended off two power plays in the first period by the dangerous Wisconsin power play. Converting nearly every one-in-three power plays, the Badgers got their third power play chance with less than a minute remaining in the middle period on a tripping penalty by MSU senior center Tommy Apap, meaning they were due for a power play goal.

And they got a goal. On Friday night, Wisconsin scored two power play goals, both of them coming within eight seconds of the start of the man advantage. This time, it took 36 seconds for the Badgers to tie the game.

Wisconsin star sophomore forward Cole Caufield, who scored one of the Badgers power play goals Friday, fired a heater from a tight angle over the top of freshman goaltender Pierce Charleson’s shoulders, tying the game at 1-1 heading into the third period.

With both teams fighting hard to secure the win, it was clear that it would come down to either one mistake or one fantastic shot. And when you have a constant scoring threat like Caufield, sometimes that is all you really need.

It was both a turnover and a great shot that gave the Badgers the lead. MSU senior defenseman Tommy Miller made a bad clearing attempt from behind the net that was picked up by Badger sophomore center Dylan Holloway. He threw the puck in front of the net to the one guy the Spartans did not want with the puck, Caufield, who was wide open and went five-hole on Charleson to light the lamp and give Wisconsin a 2-1 lead with 12 minutes to play.

Rowe made some spectacular saves down the stretch particularly on MSU sophomore forward Josh Nodler and MSU junior defenseman Dennis Cesana, who seen kissing the Spartan logo at center ice after the game, and the Badgers held on.

“Our guys played a h--- of a hockey game," Cole said. "Unfortunate it came down to one goal there, but they did not cheat us. I thought we played well, probably one of our better games of the year. We are going to have to play that way next Sunday regardless of what happened tonight. No reason not to play our best game of the year next Sunday.”

The performance by the Spartans was one of the best fans have seen in a long time. They put 41 shots on goal, while also being dominant in the faceoff circle with 50 wins. Apap led the charge with a team high seven shots on goal to go along with going 22-of-27 from the faceoff circle.

Both Charleson and Rowe were brilliant in net making 47 and 40 saves, respectively. For Charleson specifically, his hot play raises the question of whether he or junior goalie Drew DeRidder will be standing in between the pipes come the Big Ten Tournament.

“He was really good,” Cole said on Charleson’s performance Saturday. “Pressure situation and made lots of saves, handled things real well, an outstanding game from him.”

Caufield’s two goals Saturday now gives him an astonishing 25 goals on the season.

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For Wisconsin, the sweep earned them the Big Ten regular season championship and top seed in the Big Ten Tournament for next weekend. Their matchup is to be determined after a first round bye.

“I was standing besides Nash (Nienhuis) on the blue line, and I looked at him, and I think we were both thinking the same thing that obviously that is the goal and that is where we want to be one of these times,” Charleson said.

With the loss Saturday afternoon, Michigan State finishes in last place in the Big Ten and will hold the seventh seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

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