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Wisconsin Hockey: Badgers battle back to earn sweep of Northern Michigan

Grant Besse's late goal helped the Badgers to their first sweep of the Wildcats since 1996.

Grant Besse scored two goals in the Badgers' series sweep.
Grant Besse scored two goals in the Badgers' series sweep.
Larry Radloff Photography

The No. 3 ranked Wisconsin men's hockey team may be in a new conference, but it picked up right where it left off against the WCHA.

Freshman Grant Besse scored a goal late to push the Badgers (2-0) past former conference foe Northern Michigan (0-2) in their series finale Saturday night at the Kohl Center.

Besse found the back of the net after chasing his own rebound with under four minutes to go to regain the lead for UW and earn its first sweep of the season.

"It kind of popped right out to me," Besse said. "It came of my shin pad, right back down to my stick. The goalie was out of the net and I was able to slide it home."

Besse's goal came six minutes after Wildcat defenseman Luke Eibler beat Joel Rumpel on a deflected shot to tie the game, and put the Badgers on their heels.

"They had the momentum, that goal gave them jump," head coach Mike Eaves said. "But there was good talk on the bench, the guys just stayed with it. Every game is a riddle with a non-textbook answer, and we found that answer tonight."

Wisconsin got on the board first with just over eight minutes to go in the first period. Nic Kerdiles, fired a shot from the point that went right through Wildcat netminder Michael Doan, who was screened by one of his own defenseman.

With the goal, the sophomore center extended his point streak to 14 games dating back to last season.

"I think I feel pretty comfortable right now," Kerdiles said after the game. "We had a lot of confidence as a group and that is translating to my game I think a little bit right now. I think things are just falling into place for me right now."

Wisconsin controlled much of the second period but had nothing to show for it on the score sheet. The Badgers had a couple good opportunities on the power play, but failed to beat Doan.

Things started to turn in Northern Michigan's direction in the third, as the Wildcats began to direct the flow of play and began cutting into the Badgers' shot lead. Things came to a head when Eibler's was deflected past Rumpel.

"It just looked like it changed direction and kind of handcuffed him. As I was sliding blocker, [the puck] went glove [side]," Rumpel said. "From my point of view it looked like it [moved]."

The goal harked back to last year's opening series with Northern Michigan, when UW surrendered third period leads on consecutive nights, dropping both games to the Wildcats.

The final five minutes however, showed that this time things would be different.

After Besse -- who became the first UW freshman to score in his first two games since Kyle Turris in 2007 -- gave Wisconsin the lead back, the Badgers locked down defensively in the final minutes and held on to their second win of the season.

"We were tested a little bit today and showed that us as a team can kind of battle," Rumpel said. "1-0 game, then 1-1, we battled back in the dying minutes of the game to pull out a tight victory kind of shows our character as a team."