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Wisconsin vs. Michigan State recap: Badgers handle Spartans, tie Kohl Center wins record

Wisconsin's 16th home win this season ties it with the 1999-00 Badger squad for the most in Kohl Center history.

Michael Mersch celebrates after one of his two power play goals.
Michael Mersch celebrates after one of his two power play goals.
Larry Radloff photography

Home has been more than just sweet this season for the Wisconsin men's hockey team.

Senior Michael Mersch scored two power-play goals and sophomore Nic Kerdiles added a goal and two assists as the Badgers (18-9-2, 9-5-1-0 Big Ten with 19 points) beat Michigan State, 5-2, and tied the Kohl Center record with their 16th home win of the season.

"We have just been in a flow. We have been comfortable," Mersch said of his team's home performances. "We've had good crowds. Especially with the Big Ten, with the new teams, maybe they are a little bit intimidated because they haven't played in the Kohl Center before."

While home ice has been on Wisconsin's side, special teams have not been as kind to the Badgers this season, and early on it did not look like it was going to get any better.

After drawing the first penalty of the game, UW got caught on a line change and Spartan senior Lee Reimer beat Joel Rumpel to give his team an early 1-0 lead.

The goal put UW in a hole, but it also gave them a much-needed wake up call.

"Getting back on the big ice, we were getting used to the space again. Then they get the shorty and it was like a slap in the face," coach Mike Eaves said.

"We had a chat with that unit this week and talked about the fact that we have to let go of what our power-play percentage is right now. What we need to do is get it going so it becomes a contributing factor."

After MSU's Brent Darnell took a tripping penalty, Mersch evened up the score by tipping home a pass in the slot from Kerdiles. In the second period -- and on the very next power play -- he made a diving play from his knees to poke home another goal to put UW ahead for good.

The Badgers finished 2-for-5 with the man advantage, which equaled their power-play production from their last seven games combined. It was also the first time since Jan. 3 that they scored more than one power play goal in a game.

After taking the lead with those two goals, senior Mark Zengerle took the rest of the wind out of the Spartans' (9-14-7, 3-6-6-6 with 12 points) sails when he scored with less than four seconds to go in the second period off a beautiful pass across the zone from sophomore defenseman Kevin Schulze.

"To get a two-goal lead at the end of the period was big time there," Zengerle said. "You get that goal against you, it takes a big blow out of you. That pass from Kevin there -- I had the whole net."

Junior Brad Navin and Kerdiles added scores in the third to finish off Michigan State and give the Badgers a shot at what would be a record 17th home win in the series finale Saturday afternoon.

"We have talked about, in a general sense, that we have something special here," Eaves said.