GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A tough week off the ice, a tough third period on the ice.
In front of a sparse crowd at the Resch Center in Green Bay Friday night, the Wisconsin men's hockey team dropped their opener 2-1 to Northern Michigan.
The Badgers played two solid periods of hockey in their season opener, leading 1-0 heading into the final stanza. A third period goal by Northern Michigan's Reed Seckel just 18 seconds into the period fueled the Wildcats fire.
Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel couldn't control the initial shot, and Seckel punched home the rebound for the Wildcat's first goal of the season. Seckel is familiar with the Resch Center, as he played his junior hockey in the building for the Green Bay Gamblers.
Heralded Northern Michigan defenseman Kyle Follmer picked up one assist on the goal, with former Badger Matt Thurber adding the second assist.
The Badgers never seemed to rebound, and let Northern Michigan dictate tempo the rest of the third period. Wisconsin managed just three shots on net in the third after recording 17 through two periods.
Northern Michigan would take the lead for good nine minutes later on the power play. Cohen Adair found himself out in front of the Badgers net with no pressure and slipped it past Rumpel to give the Wildcats a lead they wouldn't surrender.
The Badgers had opportunities in the third to tie, but turned the puck over multiple times in the offensive zone leading to odd man rushes the other way.
Wisconsin's goal was scored by winger Michael Mersch on the power-play. The junior was able to take a feed from classmate Mark Zengerle and fire it past NMU netminder Jared Correau. Tyler Barnes was also credited with an assist on the goal.
Mersch may have won the battle, but Correau won the war. Correau stopped Mersch on a break-away later in the third, and shut the door on the Badgers as they attempted their late comeback bid.
Correau finished the night with 19 saves on 20 shots, none bigger than Mersch's break-away.
The Badgers struggled at times last season to get pucks on net, and we're already having flashbacks. Wisconsin attempted 53 shots Friday night, but missed the net a whopping 19 times.
Wisconsin was also handled in the face-off circle Friday, winning just 16 of the 47 draws in the game. The Badgers top two centers were especially bad, with Mark Zengerle winning just five of twelve, and Derek Lee winning just two of eight.
The Badgers will be back again Saturday night at the Resch Center for the rematch. Judging by the attitude of the team after the game, I would expect a better effort until the final buzzer.
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