The entire season Wisconsin has struggled to get over the hump. Just when they thought they were reaching the crest after a huge three-point weekend on the road vs WCHA leading Denver, the team settles for a pair of ties at home vs a middling Michigan Tech club.
It wasn't for a lack of effort, as Wisconsin out-played and out-chanced Tech on back-to-back nights, but failed once again in their quest to notch their first home victory of the season. Wisconsin is now 0-4-2 at the Kohl Center and 0-6-2 in the state of Wisconsin this season.
"I don't know what it is," UW head coach Mike Eaves said after the game. There is something funky going on with us and our new locker room and all the nice accommodations we have."
"It's like we're having to earn it."
Wisconsin built up a 3-1 lead Saturday night, but Tech was able to rally and eventually tie the game on a controversial goal in the third period by Blake Hietala. The puck bounced in the air and on video replay appeared as if Hietala batted it into the Wisconsin goal with his glove.
After video review, the officials upheld the goal call and Tech was able to hold on to earn the tie.
Wisconsin has struggled offensively all season, but received goals from some key players who had been in lengthy slumps.
Tyler Barnes scored for the second straight night after being shut-out all season. Additionally, sophomores Brendan Woods and Joseph LaBate notched their first goals of the season on Saturday.
LaBate was a highly touted recruit out of the Twin-Cities when he joined the Badgers' last fall, however he's been snake-bitten most of the year. The Vancouver Canucks fourth round draft pick was visually upbeat after the game.
"It's definitely nice to get the first goal out of the way," LaBate said. "I would have rather gotten the win, but I'm just glad I got a goal."
Wisconsin out-shot Michigan Tech 37-25 but couldn't finish on multiple close opportunities that looked like sure goals.
"Some of those things I couldn't believe they didn't go in, and our guys are feeling that too," Eaves said. "We just have to stay persistent, patiently persistent."
Wisconsin at times looks like a club that is ready to take the next step, however they just can't seem to turn the page. It's obviously a nice sign for UW that they're starting to get goals from players who were expected to be top performers for them this season.
With the return of Nic Kerdiles last week, and Mark Zengerle this week, I'd expect Wisconsin's offense to see a significant uptick in production.
"We are going to get it sooner or later," Eaves noted. "I think we just have to work through this and earn it."
Wisconsin will be back in action next weekend as they host a rare Thursday-Friday non-conference series against Alabama-Huntsville.