Once again, Wisconsin played short-handed Saturday night, both in terms of personnel and special teams on the ice.
The Badgers were without two of their leading goal scorers Nic Kerdiles and Tyler Barnes in the series finale vs. Michigan, and also had to fight through a six-to-one disadvantage in power plays.
Battling through the adversity, Wisconsin (14-8-2, 5-3-1-0 Big Ten) was able to manage a 2-2 tie through regulation and overtime before losing the extra point in a shootout to Michigan (12-6-3, 5-2-0-1 Big Ten). For NCAA tournament purposes, the game will go down as a tie.
"Everyone keeps talking about having these two guys out, but it doesn't matter, we rose to the occasion tonight," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said after the game. "Coming in here and doing that, with what we had, is something we can use in the future."
Eaves seemed to be frustrated with the disparity in power plays after the game, even sarcastically asking the media how many power plays each team had.
"Wow, isn't that strange?"
Despite the lopsided advantage in special teams, the Badgers' penalty killing unit rose to the occasion, not allowing a single goal on the the the process.
"The penalty-killing did a nice job," Eaves said. "They blocked shots at key times, we had lanes, we did little plays and we cleared the puck 200 feet, and (goaltender Joel Rumpel) was very good, too."
After a scoreless first period, the Badgers jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a highlight-reel goal from Michael Mersch. The senior winger took a pass from Joe Faust and was able to flip it behind his back around the Michigan defender to himself and deposited it past Wolverines' goaltender Zach Nagelvoort for the goal.
"When you have a defender on your hip you want to make a move to the net," Mersch said. "It was just kind of an instinct move and it worked out for me.
"Luckily I was able to put it behind him, spin around and put it in the back of the net."
The goal, which was ESPN SportsCenter Top-10 quality, left everyone with their jaws on the floor.
"That was pretty special," Eaves said. "We said on the bench, yep, that's going to make some news reel."
A Tyler Motte goal tied things up later in the period, but Wisconsin went into the second intermission with a 2-1 lead after another quirky goal.
A long stretch pass from Grant Besse sprung Mark Zengerle on a breakaway where he was hauled down by Michigan's Derek DeBlois. A penalty shot was awarded to Zengerle, who was able to make a nifty move before depositing the puck through Nagelvoort's five-hole for the 2-1 advantage.
A third-period goal from Luke Moffatt forced overtime, and the two teams finished regulation and overtime deadlocked at 2-2.
In the shootout, it was Moffatt playing the hero role once again, as he was the only player of the six shooters on either side to convert.
Overall, Wisconsin takes the season series from Michigan with two wins and a tie.
"We'll take the one point," Eaves said. "We'll put it in our hip pocket, and go home."
Kerdiles, who missed his sixth consecutive game after separating his shoulder, warmed up with the team on Saturday but was never given the green light to play.
"We considered it," Eaves said. "Seriously? No. If this was regional's or something like that, I think that he might have played."
The tie puts Wisconsin behind the 8-ball in terms of the Big Ten standings and moves its season record on the road to 1-6-1. Not exactly what you would have expected out of a talented veteran-laden club, according to Mersch.
"We're going to have to figure out how to win on the road because we've got a bunch of games coming down the stretch here."
For more hockey coverage, follow Andy on Twitter -- Follow @AndyJohnsonB5Q
You can also reach Andy via e-mail (AndyJohnsonB5Q@gmail.com)