Derek Lee fueled the Badgers behind a two-point effort Friday. - Photo Credit: Larry Radloff/INCHWriters.com
Coming into the weekend Wisconsin hadn't scored more than four goals in a series. They accomplished that, netting nine over the two-game set.
Coming into the weekend Wisconsin hadn't swept an opponent. They accomplished that also, knocking off Alabama-Huntsville on back-to-back nights 5-0, 4-1.
Sure, the opponent wasn't the 1976 Soviet National squad, but this was an important weekend for a team that's still looking to secure its footing in the college hockey landscape.
At this level you need to earn your points, and Wisconsin did that this weekend against a Charger team that battles hard all the time.
"Getting a sweep in any series is tough," senior center Derek Lee said after the game. "I think it was good for our club to come out and play hard in both games."
Thursday night was all Wisconsin offensively, as the Badgers jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in a 5-0 victory. Friday night, Alabama-Huntsville was the first to jump on the board, which put a scare into the Badger crowd.
After Michael Mersch and Joseph LaBate were whistled for penalties on the same play, UAH was able to take advantage on the five-on-three power-play. After a scrum out front, Huntsville forward Michael Webley was able to bang a loose puck past UW goaltender Joel Rumpel to give the Chargers their first lead of the weekend.
That would be the only goal Rumpel would give up, however. The UW sophomore goaltender stood tall the rest of the night turning aside 21 of 22 UAH shots on the night.
Wisconsin would bounce back in the second period on a Joseph LaBate tally. After Mersch fired a wrister towards the UAH net, the puck bounced out front and LaBate was able to poke it past Charger net-minder John Griggs to tie things at one.
Wisconsin would pull ahead later in the second period on a goal by defenseman Kevin Schulze. The goal--Schulze's first as a Badger--was set up by a beautiful passing play.
Mersch carried the puck into the zone on a line rush and fed Lee down the right side. Lee waited for an opportunity and hit the Badger freshman on the back side where he had an open net to shoot the puck.
"It's hard not to score that," Schulze joked after the game, noting the beautiful setup from Lee and Mersch.
Wisconsin did face some adversity in the second period, as freshman Nic Kerdiles was ejected for checking from behind. It appeared to be more of a push than a check, but Kerdiles was given the boot regardless.
Wisconsin's penalty killing unit stepped up and killed off the five-minute major, which seemed to propel Wisconsin the rest of the night.
After going into the third period with a 2-1 advantage, Wisconsin was able to bust the game open in the third on Lee's second goal of the season. A Huntsville defenseman made the mistake of passing the puck in front of his own net and Lee made him pay for it.
"I read the guys eyes and guessed a little bit," Lee said. "It popped on my stick, and I scored the goal."
Wisconsin was able to ice things with just over five minutes to play on a goal by Brendan Woods. The sophomore center carried the puck down the right side on his off hand and snapped a shot past Griggs to give Wisconsin a three goal cushion.
With Friday's win, Wisconsin runs their unbeaten streak to six games. Senior alternate captain Ryan Little noted after the game things are starting to get back on track, but they've still got to get back to work.
"We're heading in the right direction, but we've still got a lot of work to do."
Wisconsin will get a few weeks off now for the holiday break before they travel to Alaska-Anchorage shortly after New Years.
Using a familiar analogy, Eaves talked about where Wisconsin's proverbial ship is at right now.
"Right now the ship is in the port," Eaves said. "Come back at the end of December, we'll have to get it sailing again and see where it's at."
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