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Wisconsin beats Ohio State in OT for Big Ten tournament title

By Brian Murphy

St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL -- Wisconsin had a relatively easy time at the inaugural Big Ten hockey championship tournament. The Badgers earned one of two quarterfinal byes and avoided top-seeded Minnesota on its virtual home ice at the Xcel Energy Center after the Gophers were upset in the semifinals.

But Wisconsin traveled a hard road to the postseason conference title Saturday night, rallying from a two-goal, third-period deficit to vanquish Ohio State 5-4 in overtime.

Mark Zengerle pounced on a rebound and banged home the winner 7:48 into the extra session.

The Badgers have won eight straight games at Xcel, including a three-game run of the table to clinch the 2013 WCHA tournament. After joining the Big Ten, they skated off with the conference’s first hockey championship trophy.

It marked the first time Wisconsin has won consecutive conference championships since clinching CCHA titles in 1982 and ’83.

“It’s huge; feels great,” Zenergle said. “We knew we were going to play next weekend no matter what, (but) we wanted to win. It was important for us to get this first Big Ten championship. As you saw, there was no quit in our game, and I think our attitude reflected that.”

Zengerle’s goal was the biggest, but the most important moment of the game for the Badgers occurred late in the third period.

Jefferson Dahl and Tyler Barnes scored goals 48 seconds apart to cold cock the Buckeyes, who were in command when Tanner Fitz finished an end-to-end rush to take a 4-2 lead at 13:08.

Goaltender Joel Rumpel made 28 saves for the victory, besting counterpart Christian Frey, who stopped 31 shots in the loss.

The Badgers (24-10-2) likely nailed down a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament when the brackets are announced this morning.

The Buckeyes (18-14-5) needed a victory to secure the Big Ten’s automatic NCAA bid. Despite the blown lead, coach Steve Rohlik, a St. Paul native who captained the Badgers to the 1990 national championship, relished a tournament in which his team defeated Michigan State in overtime before sticking it to the Gophers.

“I’m really proud of our guys; they emptied their tanks this weekend. That’s all I can ask,” Rohlik said. “Right now it hurts, but to get the experience our guys got is priceless. To be on the big stage, one shot away from winning what this is, I think is a huge building block for us.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.