Sometimes when you're frustrated, you need a little bit of a boost to bust out of a slump. Wisconsin received that Thursday night as they earned their first home victory of the season in front of a meager Kohl Center crowd.
UW was able to bust out for five goals on the rare Thursday contest against Alabama-Huntsville, and according to head coach Mike Eaves received the effort they were looking for.
"Rewarding and satisfying, those words come to mind and now," Eaves said after the game. "We're undefeated in the last five (games) and hopefully that ship has turned around and we've got some wind at our back now."
Wisconsin was able to get the scoring started four minutes into the first period as blue-chip freshman Nic Kerdiles registered his first goal as a Badger. The Irvine, Calif. native tipped a waist high shot from classmate Kevin Schulze out of the air through the legs of Huntsville goalie John Griggs to give UW the 1-0 lead.
UW as able to extend their lead just a few minutes later as Michael Mersch netted a big power-play tally for the Badgers on a tic-tac-toe play. Mark Zengerle sent a pass down low to Derek Lee who one touched it to Mersch before he banged it into the back of the net.
After a dominant first ten minutes of the game, Wisconsin took their foot of the accelerator in the second half of the first period but UW was able to regroup and finish the last two periods strong.
"We regrouped in between periods and I think in the second and third periods we did what we needed to do," Eaves said.
Mersch was able to extend the lead 14:29 into the second period. The junior winger flipped the puck below the goal line to Lee who looked to carry the puck around the net. However Lee was able to put on the brakes and flip the puck back to Mersch who deposited the biscuit into the wide open net.
The goal was Mersch's 11th of the season, which puts him in a tie for second in the country in goals on the season.
Wisconsin put things out of reach in the third period on Sean Little's first goal of the season. A three-on-one line rush saw freshman blue-liner Eddie Wittchow rip a shot, and Little was able clean up the garbage out front to put Wisconsin up 4-0.
Little's older brother Ryan missed Thursday's game with a league mandated one-game suspension, and afterwards Sean joked that it was finally the reason he was able to get on the board.
"It's probably the reason I scored tonight to be honest," Little said jokingly. "No, he's always a good guy to have in our lineup and we look forward to getting back tomorrow, hopefully."
To cap off the night, Badger freshman Nic Kerdiles was able to net his second goal of the game after a beautiful feed from Zengerle. The two came in on a two-on-one, and Zengerle sauced a pass to Kerdiles who was able to tap it into the far side for the 5-0 advantage.
It was sort of Kerdiles' coming out party on Thursday night, and he was all smiles after the game.
"I'm happy to finally get the monkey off my back, as I would call it, finally get that goal," Kerdiles said. "At the end of the day, I'm just excited for the way our team played tonight and with all of the stuff that has been going on with me, it is nice to get that out of the way."
"We're going move forward tomorrow night and hopefully get another W."
Wisconsin starting goaltender Landon Peterson finished the game with 9 saves on 9 shots before Eaves gave walk-on freshman Adam Miller a chance to close things out. Miller didn't see a shot in the final few minutes, and Wisconsin secured the 5-0 victory, their first at the Kohl Center this season.
The Badgers' were able to feel some success at home for the first time all season, and it's time to build upon that going forward.
"The model of that was the first period," Eaves said. "We played really well in the first 10 minutes. We need to sustain that, and sustain what we did in the last 40."
"We played at a high level. We need to play like that and sustain that effort and grab another W."
Wisconsin will host Alabama-Huntsville Friday night at the Kohl Center for the finale of their two-game set.
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