Badgers lose Friday (7-2), tie Saturday (3-3)
It's rare that a team who is blown out one night, and ties the next can come out of a series with renewed optimism. The Wisconsin hockey team fits that definition to a "T" after their weekend series at St. Cloud State.
One night after playing their worst hockey game of the season, Wisconsin battled back from a two goal deficit late in the third period to earn a hard fought tie. Two Husky penalties in the third period gave the Badgers the ingredients they needed to mount a comeback at the National Hockey Center.
Freshman Matt Paape buried his third goal of the season to cut St. Cloud's lead to one. Minutes later, junior defenseman Justin Schultz notched the biggest goal for the Badgers at the biggest time of the weekend. With Michael Mersch screening St. Cloud goaltender Ryan Faragher, Schultz was able to sneak a wrist shot into the back of the net with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
The Badgers have seemingly battled adversity since the inception of this season. Faced with the prospects of suiting up an astounding number of underclassmen every night, including two freshmen goaltenders, Wisconsin knew not every weekend was going to be champagne and caviar.
Wisconsin lost their season opener in overtime, but battled back the next night and earned the split. After a road sweep at Michigan Tech, the Badgers found a way to take four points from North Dakota. Two weeks ago after blowing a three goal lead in a 6-5 loss against Nebraska-Omaha, UW made sure to put away the Mavericks the next night.
That brings us back to this past weekend at St. Cloud. One night after being embarrassed, and despite being down two goals with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, Wisconsin was able to take advantage of some timely power plays to bank a road point in a key WCHA series.
Wisconsin put themselves behind the eight ball quickly on the weekend when they started taking penalties in the first period Friday night. The Badgers penalty kill this season has been horrendous, as they've only killed off 69% of their penalties. St. Cloud made them pay for it, as they took the lead when an Andrew Prochno shot from the point grew eyes and found the back of the net.
Just over three minutes later, St. Cloud's David Eddy buried his first goal of the season by not even shooting the puck. The junior was passing the puck across the front of the net when it hit the stick of Badger defenseman John Ramage and snuck past Badger goaltender Landon Peterson.
Schultz would cut the Husky lead to 1 before the end of the period when he weaved through the offensive zone and beat Faragher on a beautiful shot.
St. Cloud's Cory Thorson would score the eventual game winner eight minutes into the second period when Wisconsin got trapped after killing off a penalty and two Badger players were without sticks.
A goal from Paape made less than a minute later things interesting for a while, before St. Cloud reeled off four straight goals to put the cap on the 7-2 victory.
Wisconsin was significantly out-played the entire night and it showed in shot attempts. Before a power-play driven 14 shots in the third period, Wisconsin had only 14 shots combined between the first two periods on Friday.
Saturday night had a different feel to it from the opening face-off. Wisconsin played with more confidence and increased energy. It looked as if the coaching staff had challenged them to raise their game, and they did.
Schultz gave Wisconsin it's first lead of the weekend when Paape made a beautiful centering feed to the junior blue-liner who was able to redirect it into the Husky goal.
Just a minute later SCSU's Prochno netted his second goal of the weekend on a laser that got stuck in the net. The two teams would go to the locker rooms tied after the first intermission.
St. Cloud's Jared Festler put the Huskies up a goal in the second when he was able to beat Badger goalie Joel Rumpel.
Things changed significantly for St. Cloud with under a minute remaining in the second period. Husky captain Drew LeBlanc, widely considered the teams best player caught an edge and crashed into the boards funny behind the Badger goal. Unfortunately, LeBlancs lower left leg gave out in the crash, causing him to break his leg.
LeBlanc was carted off the ice on a stretcher to a standing ovation from every one of the 5,900 in attendance. St. Cloud fed off that emotion early in the third period extending their lead to 3-1 on a goal by LeBlanc's roomate, Ben Hanowski.
Playing with desperation themselves, Wisconsin started earning better scoring chances in the third period. St. Cloud took a five minute major penalty for boarding with seven minutes remaining in the third period.
During the five minute man advantage, Paape was able to bury his second goal of the weekend when he found a loose puck in the crease and was able to bang it home to pull the Badgers within one.
A hooking call on St. Cloud's Cam Reid with just a few minutes remaining in the game gave the Badgers one last crack with the man advantage. That's when Schultz was able to sneak a shot by Faragher, and force overtime for the Badgers.
With both teams running on empty in the extra session, there weren't many quality scoring chances. The best opportunity came from St. Cloud's Kevin Gravel when he was able to blast a shot from the slot. Luckily for the Badgers, rookie net-minder Joel Rumpel was still sharp and turned the shot aside to preserve the tie.
Overall Wisconsin played a much more inspired game on Saturday and it showed in the result. The Badgers still have plenty of things to improve upon, most notably the penalty kill, but the team is growing, and that can only help as the season wears on.
Wisconsin comes back home next weekend as they host Minnesota who swept North Dakota last weekend at Mariucci Arena.
Wisconsin Weekend Player Points (G-A-PTS):
Justin Schultz 3-0-3
Matt Paape 2-1-3
Mark Zengerle 0-2-2
Tyler Barnes 0-2-2
Michael Mersch 0-2-2
Joe Faust 0-1-1
Brendan Woods 0-1-1
Joseph LaBate 0-1-1
Scores from around the WCHA Friday:
Minnesota-Duluth 3, Denver 3
Michigan Tech 1, Minnesota State 0
Minnesota 2, North Dakota 0
Nebraska-Omaha 7, Colorado College 5
Bemidji State 3, Lake Superior State 2
Scores from around the WCHA Saturday:
Minnesota-Duluth 4, Denver 0
Michigan Tech 3, Minnesota State 6
Minnesota 3, North Dakota 2
Nebraska-Omaha 2, Colorado College 5
Bemidji State 1, Lake Superior State 2
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