In its two-game series against Lake Superior State after a week off of play, the only thing similar about the Wisconsin men’s hockey team that opened play each night was the white laced with cardinal jerseys on their backs.
After dropping three goals Friday night to the Lakers (4-1-1, 0-0-0 WCHA) in the first 4 minutes and 9 seconds of play, the Badgers (2-2-1, 0-0-0 Big Ten) came out Saturday determined not to see a similar early feat. UW attacked LSSU from the start of game two, recording 16 shots-on-net in the first period of play, 13 of which came in the first 10 minutes of action, and the Badgers found themselves heading to the locker room with a much-needed 2-0 lead.
“We talked about it as a team today before the game and the fact that this time period that we’re going through is a test for us. And there’s certain lessons that we can learn from what we’re going through right now,” head coach Mike Eaves said Saturday.
“The way we tied it up and it was a real good emotional energizer. So all in all it was a type of weekend I think our boys needed to get going and to realize some things. We can move forward from here now.”
Friday night, it was as if the woes from the team’s trip to Boston two weeks prior had caught a ride back to Wisconsin. The early three-goal deficit was an all-too-familiar feeling for Wisconsin, which gave up four goals in a six-minute stretch of the first period against Boston College.
However unlike the eventual 9-2 and 7-3 defeats to Boston College and Boston University, the Badgers responded Friday night with a battle to tie the game 3-3 with a final UW goal from senior forward Tyler Barnes coming with 1 minute and 22 seconds left in regulation.
That momentum carried over to Saturday, as the team’s experience and depth helped lead UW to complete an 8-1 destruction of LSSU to cap off the series.
The comeback win and subsequent strong performance is exactly what Eaves wanted from his team after the gruesome start to the series. After the first 20 minutes of the weekend, UW went on to out-shoot LSSU 79-34 in the remaining five periods of the series and outscore the Lakers 10-1.
A true test of the team’s perseverance, Eaves was especially looking at the response from UW junior goaltender Landon Peterson, after the junior gave up the three early goals Friday coming off the two defeats in Boston. The response couldn’t have been better as Peterson went on to record 43 saves on the weekend, giving up just one subsequent goal on the weekend.
“I said for you Landon, this is a test for you. This is about as much as I’ve ever talked to a goalie while he’s not playing well. And I said ‘This is a test of your perseverance and your resolve to clear your mechanism in your head and get back to the next puck,’” Eaves said. “And I thought he responded very well tonight.”
Like Peterson, the skaters for Wisconsin saw an all out domination on the ice Saturday with seven Badgers recording goals. Four scored their first of the season, including redshirt junior defenseman Chase Drake’s first career goal as a Badger. Thirteen Badgers finished Saturday evening with at least a point, including sophomore center Nic Kerdiles, whose assist Friday and two goals Saturday keeps his point-steak running at a current 18-game stretch.
The all-around confidence gained this weekend will be crucial as UW heads into another bye week before heading to Oxford, Ohio, to take on No. 6 Miami.
Shootout hockey reaches the Kohl Center
As the five-minute overtime period Friday came to an end with the teams still tied 3-3, the 7,022 fans began a mass exodus of the Kohl Center, only to turn around with looks of mixed confusion and excitement as the unfamiliar words “shootout” rang out.
“It was interesting and it’s good for the fans. Tonight’s didn’t mean anything…It’s exciting, though,” senior forward Michael Mersch said. “You hope you are on the opposite end of it with a win, but it’s exciting and I think it’s a good way to end games.”
While Friday night’s shootout was no more than a chance for players to tout their moves for fans as a nonconference game, down the road shootouts will have an impact in conference standings. As all ties following the single overtime period are recorded as a tie, a shootout victory against a B1G opponent will give UW a second point, while a shootout loss would give the Badgers just the single point for a tie.
“I was watching the people in the stands once I told the guys who was going. I wanted to see their reaction and it was fun. It’s good entertainment value,” Eaves said. “In deciding whether to do shootouts or not in college hockey, the one concern was how it was going to affect the RPI. They said it wasn’t because this goes down as a tie. It was great entertainment for the fans. I’ve become a fan of it.”