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Mark Zengerle celebrates his game-tying goal Saturday night which let loose a flood of Badger goals as five different skaters scored in the 5-2 win.[/media-credit]

Just one night after Wisconsin missed out on numerous scoring chances that would have been routine plays on most nights, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team finally got its offense clicking. And once it started, Denver couldn’t find an answer to stop the suddenly explosive cardinal and white.

Saturday night, the Badgers (13-15-2, 8-14-2 WCHA) appeared destined for a repeat of the 3-0 loss it suffered Friday at the Kohl Center against the Pioneers (18-10-4, 13-7-4 WCHA). But despite falling behind 1-0 after Jason Zucker put a rebound opportunity past UW goalie Landon Peterson, the Badgers put together a dominant 5-2 victory.

“We scored five goals, and this had been a long time coming,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said. “It was fun to be in on the bench with these kids and see them get rewarded.”

UW sophomore center Mark Zengerle got the scoring underway for the Badgers, tying the game up at 1-1 in the second period off an assist from Matt Paape. Zengerle, after missing out on several opportunities Friday, let loose with a bow and arrow celebration, and the rout was on.

“We spoke last night after the game and he was beside himself with frustration,” Eaves said. “He was on the floor, and I grabbed him by the shoulders and looked him in the eye and said, ‘You are a good player. You need to remember that and just relax and play.’ And he did that today, he came out and did good things.”

Zengerle also managed to assist on Wisconsin’s next goal by Brendan Woods after circling behind the net and centering the puck to Woods. The goal came less than four minutes after the first, giving UW a sudden 2-1 advantage.

“Today was a new day, a fresh start,” Zengerle said. “I didn’t really want to think about yesterday anymore. I came out and played a really good game.”

The Kohl Center’s 15,325 fans had the first lead of the series to cheer for in the last home game of the season and let themselves be heard loud and clear for the rest of the game.

“That was one of the things we talked about in the dressing room is getting these fans a goal and getting them going because they were hungry for one,” UW defenseman Justin Schultz said. “Once that happened, we kind of fed off it and you could tell in the third period the boys were all fired up on the bench.”

The Badgers would score three more times in the third period as Keegan Meuer found the net for the game-winner off a rebound less than two minutes into the third to push the lead to 3-1 before Denver managed its final goal 21 seconds later. Michael Mersch added his 11th goal of the season midway through the period, deflecting in a Schultz wrister. Schultz finally got one of his own as he fired in his team-leading 13th goal with under five minutes to play to reward the crowd with free Culver’s ice cream.

“No matter where we end up in the standings, this is the type of game we are going to need when we go into the playoffs,” Eaves said. “This is a ‘playoff-ready’ type of game. And that’s the mentality we need to have as we go down these next four games.”

Friday night’s encounter looked to a former Badger All-American for inspiration. Kirk Daubenspeck, a goaltender for Wisconsin in the mid-90s, dropped the ceremonial puck before the game one year to the day after he suffered life threatening injuries when his car collided with a tractor-trailer.

Unfortunately for Wisconsin, neither Daubenspeck nor the festivities of Parents’ Night could prevent the Badgers from dropping their fifth straight contest, 3-0. Denver’s Luke Salazar gave Denver the only goal it truly needed 8:22 into the second period.

Denver goalkeeper Sam Brittain was the story of the game, stopping all 28 shots he faced, most impressively during the third period when Wisconsin still trailed just 1-0. The Badgers’ offense had finally gained some momentum and was reeling off scoring chances over and over only to be completely stonewalled by the sophomore netminder.

“He was a young man that we recruited pretty heavily, and I thought that he was very square to the puck tonight,” Eaves said. “He doesn’t have a lot of wasted motion, and that’s one of the things that we liked about him when we were recruiting him.”

But as well as Brittain played, he had some luck on his side with multiple Badgers completely missing from point-blank range. The Wisconsin players certainly knew they hurt themselves with missed opportunities, including a chance where Zengerle found himself with the puck at the corner of the goal staring at an essentially empty net after he corralled a rebound, but he slid the puck wide behind Brittain.

“It wasn’t our play that was so bad, we played a pretty good game,” Zengerle said. “… I don’t know how I missed that shot. It usually goes in. We had chances. Yes, we’re offensively challenged, but we also have had chances and just didn’t finish them.”