While it was far from its prettiest effort of the season, Wisconsin (12-9-7, 9-6-7 WCHA) was able to escape Saturday night's contest against Bemidji State (5-17-6, 4-13-5) with a 3-2 victory in front of 11,835 fans at the Kohl Center.
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves likened the victory to landing a wounded plane. While they didn't have a full crew, they were able to get the thing on the ground without suffering any casualties.
"We landed a wounded plane if you will," Eaves said after the win. "And the fuselage was on fire and we got it on the tarmac and that's a good thing."
Once again the Badgers skated without their entire cast of characters, as Jake McCabe missed his second straight game with an ankle injury, and Tyler Barnes was a coaches decision healthy scratch for the first time in his Wisconsin career.
"It was a little bit of tough love," Eaves said in reference to sitting Barnes. "He missed the team meeting today, simple as that. It was more a life lesson than anything else. He's very regretful, apologized to his teammates but that's what that was all about."
One positive note with the lineup was the return of Derek Lee. The senior center missed the past three contests with a concussion, but was back in time for the finale against the Beavers.
"It's always good to be back," Lee noted after the game. "I was itching to play last night maybe, and tonight felt good. Especially getting a win is good."
The Badgers took a three goal lead mid-way through the second period, but found themselves on the ropes late in the third after consecutive goals from Bemidji. However goaltender Landon Peterson closed the door, and the Badgers walked out of the weekend with three key points.
One positive from the Badgers Saturday night was finding goals from some some players who hadn't found the red-light district much this season. Keegan Meuer (second goal of the season), Brendan Woods (third goal of the season), and Kevin Schulze (second goal of the season) all found the back of the net in the 3-2 victory.
With the victory, Wisconsin is now tied in the WCHA with Minnesota State and Denver for fifth place.
The Badgers have four weekends of regular season hockey left, and that includes series against three teams that are ahead of them in the standings. Lee noted after the game that they've got a chance to control their destiny this season.
"It's focus. Every single period, every single game we've got to have that mentality that we know how important each game is down the stretch," Lee said.
"We've carved out this little path for ourselves to make something here. And we just have to make sure we're all pulling the rope in the same direction and ready for each game."
Wisconsin will be back in action next weekend as they play No. 1 Minnesota for the final time as members of the WCHA. Friday night's game will be in Madison, while Sunday's game will take place outdoors at Soldier Field in Chicago.
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