The streak is finally over. An 11 game unbeaten streak (eight wins, three ties) finally came to and end Saturday night at the hands of eighth ranked Miami. The streak spanned 56 days, and saw the Badgers go from a running joke to a legitimate NCAA tournament threat.
"It felt funny to be in the locker room and not have a celebration going on," UW head coach Mike Eaves said after the game. "It has been a long time since we've had to deal with a loss."
Miami received goals from high-end forwards Austin Czarnick and Curtis McKenzie, and rode goaltender Ryan McKay to a 2-1 victory over the Badgers in front of 12,037 at the Kohl Center Saturday night.
After losing to Wisconsin on Friday night, Miami came out with added spark in game two.
"I thought for the first eight to 10 minutes [Miami] had a little more jump in their step," Eaves said. "Obviously, they were a team that lost last night and they came out with a little burr in their fanny."
The Redhawks were first on the board just 3:13 into the first period as they took advantage of a Wisconsin penalty for too many men on the ice. With UW goaltender Joel Rumpel on the ice after making an initial save, Czarnick was able to scoop up the loose rebound and flip it into the back of the Badger net to give Miami their first goal of the weekend.
The Badgers would eventually settle down and tie things up in the second period on Michael Mersch's 13th goal of the season. The junior winger took a feed from Derek Lee in the slot and was able to rip it high blocker side on McKay to even things at one. Joseph LaBate also assisted on the play.
Miami would get that one back eight minutes later on Curtis McKenzie's seventh goal of the season. The senior winger picked the puck up on the half-wall, curled to the middle of the ice and fired a shot through a screen that found the twine.
Rumpel was solid the rest of the night, stopping 30 shots.
"(Rumpel) was really solid," Eaves noted. "I'm not sure what happened on the second goal, but there were a couple times he came up with three or four saves in succession and covered up and did another good job for us tonight."
Down a goal in the third period, Wisconsin was the much better team on the attack, as they attempted 28 shots with McKay stopping all 14 that ended up on net.
"We did the things we needed to do in the third period to try and get us back in the game and we came up short," Eaves said. "We didn't get the ‘dirty one,' we didn't get the timely goal to tie it up."
Despite the loss Saturday night, there were a lot of positives that can be taken out of this weekend. Miami brought more speed than Wisconsin is used to playing against, and junior center Mark Zengerle says that the Badgers can feed off that going forward.
"We can play at a higher pace now," Zengerle said. "This weekend brought our team to a new level. [Miami] is a good skating and skilled team and we picked it up a little against them."
"It was two pretty hard fought games that could have gone either way both nights. Hopefully we can piggyback off this series as far as pace, speed and energy go."
Wisconsin defenseman Jake McCabe noted that it's a good sign for the offense that the Badgers are getting more pucks to the net, despite the results on the scoreboard.
"Good things are bound to happen when you keep shooting the puck, but we just didn't get that bounce tonight," McCabe said. "Our effort was definitely there and we just have to keep going."
"It's time to start a new streak."
Wisconsin will be back in action next weekend as they host Alaska-Anchorage at the Kohl Center. Both games are scheduled for 7 PM starts, and will be broadcast on FS Wisconsin +.
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