GREEN BAY, Wis. --Two games, two third period collapses. For the second night in a row Wisconsin blew a third period lead, leading to an eventual sweep by Northern Michigan.
The Badgers held leads of 1-0, and 2-1, but couldn't put the nail in the coffin Saturday night.
Mark Zengerle gave the Badgers a 2-1 lead just seconds into the third period, but two third period goals just 53 seconds apart were all the Wildcats would need to secure the sweep.
Former Badger Matt Thurber—now a senior at Northern Michigan—had a large hand in the sweep for NMU.
Through a season and a half at Wisconsin, Thurber was known as a gritty centerman with offensive upside. In 42 career games, the Beaver Dam native registered 11 points in a Wisconsin uniform.
Off ice incidents led to his eventual dismissal from the Badger hockey program in February of 2010. Who knew Thurber would come back to be a thorn in the Badgers side?
Last year Thurber registered two assists in the series vs the Badgers. The Wisconsin native was once again a problem for his home state school, registering an assist in Friday nights NMU win, and adding a goal and an assist Saturday.
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves told the media after the game that he was happy for the way things have turned out for his former player.
"Good for Matt, really good for Matt. It was a tough situation. He had a choice also. He had a choice and he decided to go on and play and get on with his life, and control the things he could control, and he's done that," Eaves said after the game.
"So, for Matt, that's a good thing."
Badger blue-liner Frankie Simonelli got the scoring started in the first period when his shot deflected off a Northern Michigan player and found the back of the net. Brendan Woods was credited with an assist on the play.
Northern Michigan would come back to tie the game in the second period when a Badger turnover led to a goal. NMU defenseman Scott Macauly found winger Cohen Adair all alone out in front of the Badger goal, and the freshman was able to make a nifty move around goaltender Landon Peterson for his second goal of the weekend.
The teams went into the break tied at one, but the Badgers jumped out front early in the third on a goal by junior Mark Zengerle. The Badger junior took a feed from sophomore winger Joseph LaBate, and was able to slip it by Northern Michigan goaltender Jarred Coreau.
That's the last time the Badgers would sustain any offense the rest of the game. The Badgers registered just two shots in the third period, and just eight between the second and third periods combined.
Northern would go on to tie the game on the power play when CJ Ludwig found Thurber all alone on the back door. The former Badger buried it to tie the score at two.
Just 53 seconds later Northern Michigan would strike again. Falling to the ice, junior left wing Kory Kaunisto was able to swat a loose puck by Peterson to give the Wildcats a lead they would never relinquish.
Peterson finished the game with 27 saves on 30 shots. His overall play was solid, and didn't he didn't have much of a chance on either of the first two goals.
Northern Michigan goalie Jared Coreau was solid between the pipes for the second night in a row. That said, he didn't have to do much work down the stretch.
The Badgers came into the season with fairly high expectations, and Eaves talked about how this may be a time for them to come to the realization that they need to do more than show up on any given night.
"You can't just put the jersey on, you've got to be ready to work," Eaves said.
Senior captain John Ramage is hoping the Badgers can use this as a learning experience, and move on.
"You never like losing, but it's early in the season, and there is a lot of season left," Ramage said.
"We really look forward to the rest of the season, and getting the next series going because it really left a bitter taste in our mouth."
Wisconsin will be off next weekend before heading to Duluth to take on the Bulldogs in two weeks. The Badgers will use those two weeks to try and right the ship before WCHA conference play.
Eaves was obviously frustrated after the game, but looked at next weekend's bye as a positive.
"We have a choice right now on how we choose to go back to work on Monday."
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