Wisconsin's last-day upset helps Ohio State clinch home ice for B1G tournament opening round
When the dust cleared, Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame will be the first round hosts as the 2023 Big Ten tournament gets underway with a trio of best-of-three series next weekend.
MINNEAPOLIS – Steve Rohlik got a national championship, a college degree and the knowledge needed for a successful coaching career during his time on campus at Wisconsin. And three decades after he last wore a Badgers letter jacket on a stroll down State Street, Rohlik’s Ohio State team got a nice boost from his alma mater as the Big Ten tournament picture came into focus on the final night of the regular season.
Wisconsin (6-18-0, 18 points, 33 Pairwise), which came into the weekend guaranteed of a seventh-place finish in the seven-team league, upset Penn State 2-1 on Saturday in State College, which clinched home ice for the Buckeyes, despite Ohio State getting swept at Minnesota.
“You work hard to get home ice. We got home ice. It doesn’t matter who we play, we’ve just got to walk out of here and get better,” Rohlik said, as his team prepared to head back to Columbus on Saturday evening. He added that two intense games versus the top-ranked Gophers in a playoff-type atmosphere will likely help the Buckeyes (11-11-2, 36 points, 9 Pairwise) as they practice for a best-of-three series with Penn State.
Your @B1GHockey tournament first round — a coozie illustration. @umichhockey @BadgerMHockey @PennStateMHKY @OhioStateMHKY @MSU_Hockey @NDHockey @GopherHockey pic.twitter.com/U9CsfSris2— Jess Myers (@JessRMyers) February 26, 2023
The Nittany Lions (10-13-1, 34 points, 8 Pairwise) routed Wisconsin on Friday, but suffered a power outage in the rematch and will head to the Buckeyes’ rink for the postseason.
Michigan State was idle last weekend, and the Spartans (10-12-2, 34 points, 19 Pairwise) found themselves in the odd position of rooting for arch-rival Michigan on Saturday night. A Wolverines win versus Notre Dame in the season finale would have had the Spartans hosting a first round playoff series. Instead, the Irish (10-10-4, 35 points, 13 Pairwise) got an overtime goal from Drew Bavaro, and those two points in the standings leapfrogged them over Michigan State. Notre Dame will host the Spartans in a playoff series next weekend as a result.
✅ #BeatMichigan— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) February 26, 2023
✅ #BeatMichigan to give @NDHockey home ice in the B1G Tournament
Even better.#GoIrish pic.twitter.com/q0JKARDbie
Michigan (12-10-2, 38 points, 3 Pairwise) locked up second place with the point they earned by taking Notre Dame to overtime, and will host Wisconsin at Yost Ice Arena. After a seven-game winning streak in late January and early February, the Wolverines head into the playoffs having gone 0-2-2 in their final four regular season games.
Perhaps the most impressive attribute for Wisconsin, despite finishing in the conference cellar, is that the Badgers have one win against each of the Big Ten’s other six teams.
After round one is concluded, the lowest remaining seed will travel to Minnesota for a one-game semifinal versus the Gophers (19-4-1, 57 points, 1 Pairwise) on March 11. Following the sweep of Ohio State, Gophers coach Bob Motzko said his team will work hard to avoid rust during the coming week off, as they await their first playoff foe. With one forward and two defensemen missing from the lineup due to injury, the Gophers will spend some important time healing as well.
He said they are finalizing plans for a practice and intersquad scrimmage in Rochester, Minn., on March 4, similar to last year when Motzko took the team to his hometown of Austin, Minn., during the playoff bye week.
“We’re going to be home for a month, so let’s get out of town,” he said. “We have to replicate some energy and some game-type situations and we’re going to do it not here. We’re going to have some good healthy practices as well, and then we’ll know our fate after next weekend and start to get ready.”