Wisconsin's offensive challenges were readily apparent once again on Friday night as the Badgers' were able to manage just one goal in a 1-1 tie vs Michigan Tech. Averaging less than two goals per game this season, Wisconsin fell to 54th in the country (out of 59) in goals per game at a paltry 1.77 for the season.
With the return of blue-chip freshman Nic Kerdiles last week and star forward Mark Zengerle this week, Wisconsin's offensive production was expected to see a significant boost in production. However, UW has managed just five goals over their past three games despite coming out with a win and two ties.
Once again the Wisconsin defense and goaltending play was superb, as the Badgers' held Michigan Tech to a single goal. It's the third straight game that UW has held the opposition to a single goal.
Michigan Tech got the scoring started first in the third period after a Wisconsin turnover. UW defenseman Jake McCabe made a lazy pass behind the net that was picked off by Husky forward Milos Gordic. The Tech forward quickly played the puck out front to sophomore winger Blake Pietila who was able to beat UW goaltender Landon Peterson to give Tech a 1-0 lead.
"It was a bad turnover by us," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said after the game. "Plain and simple."
Starting the game 0-3 on the power-play, the home crowd became rather restless watching the anemic Badgers' with the man advantage. Things got so bad during the game Friday night that UW's PP was boo'd by the home crowd after a number of stagnant opportunities on the man advantage.
Wisconsin center Mark Zengerle didn't take it personal after the game.
"Fans are going to be fans," Zengerle said. "Obviously they want us get better production, and it not like we're not trying."
"We're trying to score, but at least they're in to it."
The Badger power-play would eventually silence their critics late in the third period.
With Tech forward Jujhar Khaira off for a holding penalty, Badger junior Winger Tyler Barnes was able to bang home a rebound with on the man advantage with 3:11 to play to tie things up at one. Michael Mersch and Jake McCabe were credited with assists.
Barnes has been snake-bitten much of the season, and Eaves hopes that it will jump start the Eagan, MN. native.
"It's just good to see him get a little reward, and kind of get that monkey off of his back," Eaves said.
Barnes admitted that it certainly felt like the weight was lifted after his goal Friday night.
"It's a big weight on my shoulders," Barnes said. "I'd be lying if it wasn't."
Wisconsin goaltender Landon Peterson continued his dominance between the pipes Friday night, as the sophomore stopped 25 of 26 shots on the night and ran his season save percentage to .939%.
"He continues to compete, and he continues to do the little things at that position that help him make saves," Eaves said.
Michigan Tech goaltender Kevin Genoe didn't have a bad night himself, as the Husky goaltender stepped up in a big spot on the road stopping 23 of 24 shots in the 1-1 draw.
Despite a lack of offense most of the night, Eaves felt like the late goal is something that UW can build upon going into Saturday.
"It was such a big goal at the end of the game, and we needed something good to happen I think that's a big lift for our guys," Eaves said. "The fact that the game was on the line and the power play stepped up and got it done, that's huge."
Wisconsin and Michigan Tech will be back at it Saturday night, same time, same place.
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