Wisconsin Topples No. 5 Denver, 3-1

Derek Lee sparked the Badgers with an early goal Saturday night - Photo Credit: Larry Radloff/INCHWriters.com

Wisconsin picks up three huge road points at Denver, and may have found the spark they needed to turn this season around.

After being swept at the hands of Minnesota State last weekend on home ice, Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves made some curious comments in his post game press conference.

Eaves spoke about how despite the results on the ice, it felt like the Badgers' ship was starting to turn in the right direction. Many people, including yours truly, weren't so sure.

Maybe Eaves knows what the hell he's talking about.

Saturday night Wisconsin rode the momentum of two early goals and hung on for a huge 3-1 victory on the road over fifth ranked Denver in front of an announced crowd of 5,702 at Magness Arena. Coupled with a Friday tie, Wisconsin is able to get out of town with three huge road points against the WCHA leading Pioneers.

"We talked last weekend about the ship turning a little bit," Eaves said after the game Saturday. "Well, we've got it turned a little bit more. Hopefully when we get home (next week vs Michigan Tech) we get the wind at our back."

The return of highly touted Nic Kerdiles was much anticipated this weekend, and the freshman winger made his presence felt on Saturday night .

The Irvine, Calif. native helped set up Wisconsin's first goal just five minutes into the first period when he forced a turnover near the blue-line in UW's offensive end. The puck bounced to right winger Tyler Barnes who niftily fed Derek Lee in the slot where the senior center was able to use a DU defenseman as a screen to rip a wrist shot past Sam Brittain to give Wisconsin the early lead.

Seven-and-a-half minutes later, Kerdiles would find the net on his own. The Anaheim Ducks draft pick whistled a slap-shot towards the Denver cage that caromed off an unsuspecting Pioneer defenseman out front and into the back of the net giving Wisconsin a 2-0 lead they would never relinquish.

A second period power-play goal by Daniel Doremus would pull Denver within one, but the Pioneers could never find the equalizer despite out-shooting the Badgers 23-10 in the final two periods.

The Pioneers looked to have late life after Wisconsin was whistled for a penalty with 1:59 remaining in the game, but a John Ramage empty net goal would ice the victory for the Badgers.

UW sophomore goaltender Landon Peterson was sharp all night, finishing the game with 35 saves in the victory. Along with classmate Joel Rumpel, the Badgers' have quite the tandem between the pipes right now.

After the game Eaves spoke about the impact of having his blue-chip freshman in the lineup for the first time all season.

"Having Nic (Kerdiles) was a big shot in the arm," Eaves said. "Next week when we get Mark (Zengerle) back, that will be another big shot in the arm."

Zengerle has been out for the past three series with a badly broken index finger on his left hand that he suffered blocking a shot against Colorado College November 3rd. His return coupled with a three point weekend might be the spark that this club needs to get over the hump Eaves noted.

"We've got to build off this weekend."

For more Wisconsin hockey coverage, follow Andy on Twitter (@AndyJohnsonB5Q)

You can also reach Andy via e-mail (AndyJohnsonB5Q@gmail.com)

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