The schedule has afforded the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team two breaks in the season, and the Badgers have spent parts of both of them chewing on some pretty raw results.
The most recent was a 7-1 loss to Minnesota on Saturday that finished a series sweep at the Kohl Center.
That wasn’t the way the Badgers were looking to go into their bye week before playing at Ohio State on Feb. 23-24 to close the regular season.
“Coaches have a hard time letting go of things, and now you have 13 days to stew over it,” associate head coach Mark Osiecki said after the loss.
UW closed the 2017 part of its schedule with a 6-2 loss to Notre Dame on Dec. 9 that sealed the other home sweep it suffered this season. UW had three weekends off after that low point and also suffered a four-goal loss, at Penn State, on its return.
On Saturday, players reported a postgame locker room where not much was said after the team fell below .500 (14-15-4) and into fifth place in the seven-team Big Ten Conference.
“I don’t think anything really needed to be said,” senior forward Ryan Wagner said. “It sucks for us seniors, that being our last game at home.”
The Badgers fell out of the national rankings for the first time this season on Monday, and they’re 20th in the PairWise Rankings that reflect the selection of at-large teams for the 16-team NCAA tournament.
There’s a chance they could be out of the running for a home Big Ten playoff series by this time next week, depending on how teams ahead of them — third-place Michigan and fourth-place Minnesota — fare this weekend.
The Badgers on Monday were still awaiting word on the severity of the upper-body injury to defenseman Josh Ess, who missed the last 54 minutes Saturday.
The freshman had his left shoulder crunched into the glass on a check by Minnesota’s Tommy Novak.
After the game, Osiecki said the Badgers were expecting Ess, one of the top contributors to an improved defensive corps this season, to miss “significant time.”
Ess, a seventh-round draft pick of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks last year, shares the team lead in plus-minus at plus-10. That’s also tied for the best among Big Ten freshmen.
He has been paired with junior Peter Tischke on a combination that has been matched up with opponents’ top lines.
“Those two guys have been outstanding all year,” Osiecki said. “And to lose a guy like that, obviously, it just disrupts the chemistry, certainly, on the blue line and the pairs. We need another guy to step up right now and fill those shoes.”
Ess’ absence likely will bring sophomore JD Greenway back into the lineup. He was a healthy scratch for the past three games after a sub-par outing on Feb. 2 at Michigan.
Three recruits are set to play in a highly scouted tournament starting Tuesday in Michigan.
Forward Sampo Ranta is on the Finland roster and defensemen Ty Emberson and K’Andre Miller are with the U.S. for the Five Nations Tournament that runs through Saturday.
Ranta has 15 goals and 23 points in 38 games for the Sioux City Musketeers. He has scored four times in his last four games.
Miller (18 points in 38 games) and Emberson (17 in 37) are both with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
Goaltender Daniel Lebedeff, meanwhile, is expected to be named to play in the North American Hockey League Top Prospects Tournament, also in Plymouth, Michigan, on Feb. 27-28.
All four players have signed a National Letter of Intent to join the Badgers.