Coming off a successful 2-0 road trip in New York, the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team were stifled by a hungry Northern Michigan team Friday before battling back to even the series 1-1 Sunday.
The Wildcats (3-6-1) jumped on the Badgers (5-3-0) 33 seconds into the opening period of Friday night’s game to score their first of five total goals.
The Badgers answered ten minutes later when star freshman forward Trent Frederic took it himself from center ice to net a top-shelf power play score to put Wisconsin on the board.
The Wildcats scored three unanswered goals after Frederic’s effort, shutting the Badgers out in the second period. Northern Michigan set the tone physically from the opening face-off, allowing their defense to hold the prolific Badger offense to just one score through two and a half periods.
Head coach Tony Granato said postgame the team missed some important chances.
“We couldn’t capitalize on our chances,” Granato said. “We had some power play chances at pivotal points of the game where we could’ve got back in the game and didn’t.”
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The Badgers final goal of the game came on a penalty shot after sophomore forward Seamus Malone was hooked on a breakaway following a steal from Wisconsin’s blue line.
Other than Frederic and Malone’s individual efforts, the previously-prolific Badger offense could not seem to get past the brick wall led by Northern Michigan’s sophomore goalie Mathias Israelsson. The young goaltender had an impressive 34 saves and held a Badgers team who has averaged 4.3 goals a game to just two scores.
Wisconsin’s goaltender made some plays too, but not the kind anyone wants to be remembered for. Five minutes into the second, following the Wildcats third straight score, freshman goaltender Jack Berry replaced the struggling Matt Jurusik who allowed four scores in his 25-minute stint on the ice.
“I’m fine,” Jurusik said. “Next time I get the net I’ll be better.”
Jurusik’s younger replacement, Berry, kept the Badgers in the game, shutting down all six Wildcat shots on the net and giving the coaches a decision to make regarding the starter for game two.
“That’s not an easy situation to come in because if you give up another goal the games over, and he’s done it twice for us against good teams and gave us that chance,” Granato said. “We’re going to make a decision on whether or not he’ll start tomorrow. There’s a good chance he’ll start.”
The Badgers took another loss as senior forward Grant Besse slammed into the boards after willing his way to the net in effort to get his team going.
“Obviously, he hit the boards hard, and that’s a scary part of the ice,” Granato said. “You’re going to the net, you’re off balance a little bit and you get bumped. There’s not a whole lot of chance to recover, so hopefully it’s not too bad.”
A frustrating night and a key injury will prove to be a real test for this young Badger team. Despite the loss in injuries and the scoreboard, the resilient Wisconsin squad rallied and took down NMU Sunday behind a shutdown defensive effort.
Berry stepped up in his first career start and recorded 22 saves on the day. Regular suspects sophomore forward Luke Kunin and junior forward Cameron Hughes notched two to give the Badgers the lead before dropping back and securing a huge win for the team.
Wisconsin now takes an extended break, waiting to play Merrimack University at home on Nov. 18 and 19.