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Colorado College vs. Wisconsin recap: Badgers tough out 4-1 win

Special teams played a key role in Wisconsin's sixth home victory of the season.

After a long day off the ice, Nic Kerdiles made every impact on it Friday.
After a long day off the ice, Nic Kerdiles made every impact on it Friday.
Larry Radloff Photography

MADISON -- With two classes, a 12-page paper, an accounting exam and an early start, it's a wonder Nic Kerdiles had any time to squeeze in a hockey game Friday night.

The sophomore center had quite a day off the ice before his team's game against Colorado College even began, but he made as much impact as ever on the ice, drawing three penalties and scoring the game-winning goal in Wisconsin's 4-1 win.

"I had a little busy day today," the Irvine, Calif., native said. "I had a pre-game skate, then I had two classes back-to-back, right after that I had a final from 2:30 to 4:30 before a 6:30 game so I had to hustle over here."

Kerdiles admitted he may have rushed a bit during his exam, but once he was on the ice, he was a part of virtually every critical moment in the game.

"He was involved in a lot of things, kind of the eye of the storm," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said of his young center. "He'll sleep real honestly tonight."

The Badgers (7-5-1, 2-2-0 Big Ten) killed off back-to-back 5-on-3's late in the third period and scored two power play goals of their own to remain undefeated at the Kohl Center this season (6-0-1), and perfect in the midst of its school-record 12 game home stand.

After a dull first period, things picked up quickly in the second. The Badgers got on the board first with a power play goal from Joseph Labate. The junior forward beat CC goalie Josh Thorimbert high glove-side for his fifth goal of the season.

UW found themselves on the power play again a few minutes later, but this man-advantage had a very different outcome.

Kerdiles, who was on the ice long past his shift, attempted an ill-advised pass across the Tiger zone that was picked off by CC's Alexander Krushelnyski, who took the puck the length of the ice and beat junior goalie Joel Rumpel to tie the game at one.

"In situations like that, all athletes are going to have those moments where they don't do what they want. For us as a staff, it was ‘what is going to be his response'" Eaves said of Kerdiles. "After a few moments I went down and said ‘clear the mechanism.' That is kind of our term -- let it go."

That one bad pass could have ruined what was a dominant period for the Badgers, but Kerdiles would atone quickly.

On his very next shift, Kerdiles drew an elbowing penalty from Peter Stoykewych. 21 seconds later -- and with less than two seconds left in the period --Kerdiles found the puck in front of Thorimbert and pushed the puck into the net.

"When you make a bonehead play like that, you really owe one to the team," Kerdiles said. "Coach Eaves gave me that opportunity to go out there with my line. It was a great play by everybody."

Instead of going into the locker room with their heads down after a late, momentum-killing goal, Wisconsin grinded out the rest of the second period and earned a 2-1 lead going into the final frame.

"I think if you look at markers for a game, scoring in the first minute or the last minute of a period really sets you up," Eaves said. "That was an emotional energizer for us and I think you can imagine what it does on the other end of it. It is one of those watershed moments of the game."

Senior forward Michael Mersch extended the Badger lead early in the third with his ninth goal of the season and the 100th point of his UW career, but the biggest moment for Wisconsin came on the penalty kill.

The Badgers were already short-handed when Jake McCabe took a cross checking penalty to put UW down two men.

As soon as that penalty ended, senior captain Frankie Simonelli took a bad cross checking call of his own to put his team in a two-man hole again.

With just three skaters on the ice, Rumpel and senior forward Jefferson Dahl made a series of huge saves to preserve Wisconsin's two-goal lead.

"I thought the young men didn't extend themselves and did a nice job of spacing themselves out," Eaves said of his penalty-killers. "There were some moments that were on the edge, but they didn't extend themselves, they worked together as a group."

Simonelli added an empty-net goal with less than ten seconds to go to preserve the win. The two teams will face off again tomorrow night in the series finale at the Kohl Center.