A night after having to stage a monumental comeback to force a tie with Lake Superior State, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team came out of the gates looking like a completely different team Saturday night at the Kohl Center, dominating the Lakers from period to period. The Badgers racked up two first-period goals and then proceeded to tally six more, trouncing Lake Superior State by a final score of 8-1 to take the series.
Wisconsin (3-2-1) found itself down in an early 3-0 hole Friday night, but Wisconsin started the game strongly in the series finale and blitzed the No. 12-ranked Lakers (4-1-1) right from the opening faceoff. In the first 10 minutes of the first period, Wisconsin had already recorded 11 shots on goal to a measly two by the Lakers.
As Wisconsin senior defenseman Frankie Simonelli explained, he and his Badger teammates built off the momentum they had created late in Friday night’s game and transferred it to the open of the series finale.
“Once we got going last night — we had a couple of weeks off, started off with not the start we wanted last night — the way we finished the game last night is the way we started tonight, so it helped with the momentum,” Simonelli said.
With the plethora of chances, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Badgers would find the back of the net, and at the 10 minutes, 26 seconds mark, they did. Senior forward Tyler Barnes forced a turnover in the offensive zone and found senior forward Mark Zengerle near the left side of the crease. After a toe drag in front of LSSU goaltender Kevin Murdock, Zengerle managed to create just enough room to stuff the puck home for a 1-0 Badger lead.
Wisconsin slowed down the torrid start just a touch, but near the end of the first period, with 1:07 left, it notched what proved to be the game-winner when junior forward Joseph LaBate entered the Lakers zone and flipped a fairly weak wrister on net. Murdock — saving 36 shots, and in net after LSSU goaltender Kevin Kapalka started Friday night —couldn’t come up with the save as the puck sailed over his right shoulder.
The Lakers would strike back early in the second period with only 16 seconds gone in the frame on a goal from Kevin Czuczman, and it looked like the game was about to turn into the close contest of Friday night. But with the tighter 2-1 game, Wisconsin responded by turning on the afterburners and leaving the Lakers in the dust.
The Badgers went on to score two more goals in the second period to catapult to a 4-1 lead, and then opened up the floodgates in the third with four scores.
Junior guard Landon Peterson had 21 saves on 22 shots in net for Wisconsin, rebounding well, according to head coach Mike Eaves, after starting slow Friday night.
However, it wasn’t just Peterson responding well, as the skaters around him all pitched in to get a resounding win — their first since getting dumped two weekends ago in Boston College.
“It’s a nice way to end a weekend. I think that’s what the doctor ordered for a lot of our guys,” Eaves said. “When you think about it, we fired over 90 shots over the weekend, and would’ve liked to have one the one last night. But in retrospect, the way we tied it up was a real good emotional energizer. All in all, it was the type of weekend that I think our boys needed to get going and realize some things and we can move forward from here now.”