The University of Wisconsin hockey teams each snapped streaks last weekend. The men's team ended an 11-game skid with a 3-2 win over Ohio State, while the Buckeyes handed the Badger women their first loss in eight games with a 4-3 upset. It was one of those rare role reversals during a season in which we've watched with consternation as the once mighty Badger men -- remember those nine Frozen Four appearances and last year's inaugural Big Ten title? -- slipped and slid to a 3-19-4 record (1-9-2-2 in the Big Ten).
The women, with a 23-5-4 record (18-5-3-1 in the Big Ten), are providing all the bright spots on the ice and battling Minnesota for first place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
The men's team began this season by going 1-10-1, the worst start since the 1930s. Fast-forward to Jan. 30, when UW surrendered four goals to Minnesota in exactly 100 seconds and lost their grip on a 3-1 lead. The following weekend, UW fell to Penn State, 4-1, in a game that saw a disallowed goal following a high-sticking penalty. The loss, the 10th in a row, set another record for futility -- one that was extended to 11 games last Friday night, despite senior goalie Joel Rumpel's 40 saves against Ohio State.
Now, if the Badgers can manage to put together a couple of short winning streaks and make it through five more weekends (including home series with Michigan State and Ohio State, and then the Big Ten Tournament in Detroit), they can put this disastrous season behind them and watch coach Mike Eaves await his fate.
The women will wrap up their regular season this weekend against St. Cloud State at the LaBahn Arena, with the first round of the WCHA playoffs beginning Feb. 27 at the same venue. A run at the national championship by the Badger women, who between 2006 and 2014 have seven Frozen Four appearances and four national titles, could go a long way toward rejuvenating Madison's proud hockey heritage.