In its season opening performance Friday night, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team topped Northern Michigan 5-2 in a game that left fans, players and coaches excited about the potential of this year’s team.
“The first game of the season it definitely takes a few shifts to get into it. That’s what we were talking about in the locker room before. You either get hit or make a hit. A lot of our philosophy is to really get into that game mindset,” junior defenseman Jake McCabe said. “We were winning races and battles and that was good to see and it was the start we needed.”
En route to victory, 10 Wisconsin players tallied points. Junior forward Joseph LaBate gave UW its first goal of the season 5:07 into the game, rifling the loose puck into the back of the net from the back door after sophomore center Nic Kerdiles drew the defensemen to the slot. With the assist, Kerdiles extends his point streak to 13 games.
Just 2:32 later, senior forward Mark Zengerle found himself one-on-one with a Wildcat defenseman while on the penalty kill. McCabe knocked in the rebound from Zengerle’s shot past NMU redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom to put Wisconsin up 2-0.
The Wildcats found the back of the net midway through the first period, but the score was called off for a crease violation on Ryan Daugherty. Wisconsin made it a three-point lead to end the first period with senior Michael Mersch connecting with senior line mate Tyler Barnes and McCabe.
“Coach said it best, we need to go out there and establish the fastball and that’s what we did. We went out there got the puck deep and we went at their defenders,” Kerdiles said. “So being aggressive like that scared them a little bit I think and put them on their heels and turned into a lot of chances for us.”
Northern Michigan got on the board on a power play goal 17:41 into the second period. A scuffle on the right side of the UW net left NMU defenseman CJ Ludwig with a wide open net and a lose puck on the left side and goaltender Landon Peterson unable to adjust in time.
Barnes quickly retaliated for Wisconsin to bring the lead to 4-1 to end the second period.
The third period brought freshman forward Grant Besse his first career goal as a Badger. Besse’s one timer past Daugherty off a pass from senior forward Jefferson Dahl gave UW its final goal of the evening. A ninth penalty against Wisconsin allowed Wildcat forward Stephan Vigier to bring the score within three, but it was too late as Wisconsin earned its first win of the season.
While goals came plenty, so did penalties. Wisconsin took nine penalties, to NMU’s seven, for nearly an entire period — 18 minutes— in the box.
“We had way too many penalties, that’s for sure,” McCabe said. “Our best penalty kill is to not give penalties.”
The Badgers and Wildcats will be back on the ice Saturday night, with a later start at 8 p.m. for game two of their opening series.