Coming into Friday night, Wisconsin's offense was putrid. Through 22 games, UW was able to manage just 49 goals, which ranked them 48th in the country (out of 59 teams) in terms of goals-per-game at a paltry 2.23.
The UW power play wasn't much better. The Badgers entered the weekend with the third worst power play in the country, scoring on just 9.1% of their attempts with the extra attacker this season.
To stimulate some offense on both accounts, the Wisconsin coaching staff made some changes this week. A few of the tweaks included flipping their top two centers, and adjusting their top PP unit so that Derek Lee is on the point.
So far, so good.
Wisconsin's offense seemed to take hold Friday night against Alaska Anchorage, registering five goals on the night including two on the power play to propel UW to a key WCHA victory in front of 10,154 at the Kohl Center.
"We got the result we had hoped for by making some changes," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said after the game.
"We stimulated some offense and got some goals for both units. That was our sole reason for doing that. Our hope is that we can build on what we started tonight."
Wisconsin got the scoring started early in the first period on freshman Nic Kerdiles' third goal of the season. The winger from Irvine, Calif., corralled a rebound off the stick of Derek Lee, and was able to slip one across the goal line from his knees.
Anchorage would bounce back five minutes later on a goal from Blake Tatchell. The freshman center fired a shot toward the UW net that hit the stick of a Badger defenseman out front, and fooled Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel.
Before the first period was over, Wisconsin would bounce back on Tyler Barnes fifth goal of the season. Once again it was Lee setting things up for the Badgers, as the senior center threaded a beautiful pass from behind the net out to Barnes, where the Eagan, Minn., native was able to find the open net to give Wisconsin the 2-1 advantage.
Wisconsin would extend their advantage to 3-1 nine minutes into the second period on their first power play goal in seemingly forever. Junior center Mark Zengerle picked up a feed from Jake McCabe and sent a low shot towards the Anchorage net. UAA goaltender Rob Gunderson kicked the shot aside, but the rebound landed on the stick of UW forward Michael Mersch who was able to rip it home for Wisconsin's first power play goal in the past eight games.
Zengerle would find the net himself later in the period off of a beautiful setup from his new line-mate. Mersch picked up the puck along the left half-wall and sent a slap-pass to the back door for a wide open Zengerle who had the whole net to shoot at.
"I think my mom could've put that in," Zengerle said after the game. "That was a nice dish, and I just had to tap it in pretty much."
Wisconsin would extend their lead to 5-1 in the third period on Mersch's second power play conversion of the game. The Park Ridge, Ill. native would take a feed from Barnes on the power play and rip one past Gunderson to give the Badgers their final tally of the evening.
Anchorage would go on to score a goal a few minuets later off the stick of Scott Allen, but the goal would be rendered useless as Wisconsin's defenders tightened things up down the stretch.
Rumpel finished the night with 12 saves on 14 shots while Gunderson from Anchorage kicked aside 32 on 37 Badger shots.
Wisconsin's unbeaten streak in the WCHA has been extended to nine games (6-0-3), and the Badgers will have an opportunity on Saturday to take that to double-digits.
Wisconsin junior winger Tyler Barnes noted after Friday's game that this team is just one part of the legacy that's already been built in Madison.
"Wisconsin hockey is built on is hard work, and continuing that legacy is what we're trying to work towards."
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