Leapin' Lambeau

Badgers top Ohio State 4-2 in the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic

GREEN BAY, Wis. — With all the hype leading up to Saturday's Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic, it was hard to believe that there was actually a hockey game involved. Now that the game is over, it is just as difficult to realize that a hockey game actually was part of the event. On the ice inside Lambeau Field here, No. 4 Wisconsin beat Ohio State 4-2.

In fact, with all the hoopla surrounding the contest, some of the 40,000-plus fans will probably forget that they were not at a football game.

After all, the game was played at Lambeau Field and included a Lambeau Leap and the Camp Randall tradition of "Jump Around".

"You come to a football game and that's what you notice," UW head coach Mike Eaves said. "[With this game I noticed] just the energy of the people, the vastness of almost 41,000 people … just being able to step back and look up at all those people."

"Unless you were in that dressing room and around the whole thing, you can't describe it," UW captain Adam Burish said. "I don't think I've stopped smiling yet since the game has ended."

The talk the entire week surrounded the fact that the game would take place outdoors, at Lambeau, in the cold and in front of a massive amount of fans. Nobody really knew what to expect.

"It was just an unreal experience. It really brought back playing on the outdoor rinks, a little breeze at your face, your nose is sniffling a little bit," UW senior Ryan MacMurchy said. "It's one of those games you're going to remember the rest of your life."

The win capped off a weekend of excitement and Eaves and the Badgers hope they can carry that energy with them down the home stretch of the regular season.

"That'll be the biggest thing from it," The game really doesn't help us in the WCHA, but the energy it gives us is the fact that we won here."

As the dust continues to settle, so does the realization that there was, indeed, a hockey game.

Burish jump-started his team from the get-go Saturday afternoon, beating Ohio State goalie David Caruso just 23 seconds into the contest.

Caruso blocked Burish's first attempt from between the circles, but the senior got his own rebound and made the netminder pay, giving the Badgers a 1-0 lead in the opening moments.

"To score a goal early always helps, especially in a big game like this, to settle guys down," Burish said.

It appeared that Ohio State (14-14-4) tied the game at 7:34 in the first period when defenseman Sean Collins collected a rebound and found nothing but the back of the net. But after a discussion by the officials, the goal was waved off because the net had come off its moorings.

It wouldn't be the only time that Badger goalie Shane Connelly knocked the net off its post, but the goal was resting on a different style peg than usual.

"Every time he would shift over in the first period he would knock the net off the moorings," Ohio State head coach John Markell said. "He was pretty smart if he was doing it on purpose."

"I in no way intentionally moved the net on any of those plays," Connelly said. "I hit the post and it just fell off. I told the ref, ‘It's going to be a struggle down here—they're just pegs, not like the moorings.'"

The Buckeyes eventually did tie it up at 11:11 of the second frame. Of course, what would a showcase game in a fanatical environment be without a crazy goal?

The Buckeyes' Dave Barton snapped off a shot from the blue line toward Connelly. The low-line shot one-hopped off the ice and over the leg pad of Connelly to tie the game 1-1.

But the Badgers (20-7-2) would get the lead back before the second intermission on a blast from sophomore Kyle Klubertanz. The blue-liner fired the puck through traffic and perhaps off a Buckeye defenseman and into the net as UW regained the lead 2-1.

The temperature slowly dwindled as the game wore on, but with what the weather circumstances could have posed in northern Wisconsin in February, nobody was complaining.

"It was like summer out there…it was [like] ‘Who cares about the weather?'" Burish said. "Once you got out there, you forgot."

It was especially evident that the teams were unfazed by the weather in the action-packed third period.

The Badgers added to their lead seven minutes into the final period as Jake Dowell and MacMurchy set up Andrew Joudrey with a pass just above the left crease. The junior put the puck in the empty left side of the net to make it 3-1.

"It was nice because in the third period everybody played well," Joudrey said. "It was nice that it paid off like that."

But the Buckeyes didn't give up. With little more than four minutes remaining in the game, they gave themselves hope.

Wisconsin couldn't clear the puck from out in front of Connelly who had made an initial save. Instead, the puck squirted loose to junior center Bryce Anderson who finished it off for his third goal of the year.

"I saw us hanging together out there," Markell said. "We fought back. We knew how important it was, and I'm proud of our kids for doing that."

Ohio State tried to put the pressure on down the stretch and pulled Caruso out with 1:30 left to play. But UW's Joe Pavelski made a big block in the defensive end—one that hit a nerve that caused him to lose feeling in his lower leg—and the puck bounced free to Robbie Earl who skated down the ice untouched and deposited the empty-netter.

When the horn sounded 58 seconds later, the players shook hands and then the Badgers knew right where to go. Stealing a page from the Packers, the entire UW team leapt into what became a student section behind one end of the ice.

"We had talked about it—how cool it would be," Burish said. "It was a special moment."

It was a fitting end to what turned out to be an event that went even better than most had hoped.

Yes, it did have a few snags—the condition of the ice left something to be desired and the long trek to the locker room was a bit much—but those things will not be remembered by those who witnessed the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic.

When asked if he would like to play under similar circumstances again, Burish replied "I'll be here tomorrow."

Unfortunately for everyone involved, there will not be another game like Saturday's Classic tomorrow, and probably not next year.

Instead, the Badgers will go back to work and prepare for next weekend's series at Michigan Tech as they strive to win the WCHA.

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