MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin probably couldn’t have found a better time to have its most prolific offensive period of the season.
And it’s no surprise that it came in the third period.
The Badgers turned a close game into a runaway victory Saturday, scoring a season-high four times in the final 20 minutes of a 6-2 victory over Denver in the Midwest Regional semifinals at the Kohl Center.
“I think it was a dagger in their heart right there,” said Badgers defenseman Cody Goloubef, one of four Wisconsin players to score in the third. “That third period, that’s what we need. I think that sunk their ship right there.”
Those four goals came in the last 10 minutes, 41 seconds, an avalanche that buried Denver’s hopes of playing in the Frozen Four back home.
Goloubef, a freshman, got things started with help from a kick by center Ben Street and a friendly bounce. Street got the puck back to Goloubef at the left point, setting up Goloubef for a slapshot that hit the left post.
It rebounded back off Denver goaltender Peter Mannino, then trickled over the goal line before Mannino could sweep it back out.
“It was a huge goal,” Goloubef said. “It got the lead back to two, and we just started pulling away from there. It kind of opened up the floodgates.”
That it did. John Mitchell and Michael Davies added breakaway goals as the Pioneers’ defensemen started to pinch toward the goal, and Davis Drewiske scored into an empty net with 2:46 remaining.
The 4-1 advantage in the third period Saturday means Wisconsin has outscored teams 49-23 in the third this season.
“The third period has been strong for us in terms of scoring goals, and I was glad to have that on our side tonight,” Eaves said. “I hadn’t seen our bench that excited. Somebody darn near jumped up and hit me with their feet. It was fun to watch the kids be that excited and share that with the fans tonight. It was special.”
Wisconsin has the two highest-scoring periods against the Pioneers this season. The Badgers scored three times in the first period of a 7-2 victory at Magness Arena on Jan. 12.
No other team scored more than twice in a period against Denver this season.
Denver’s Tom May scored after Mitchell’s goal to cut the Badgers’ lead to 4-2, but Wisconsin responded less than three minutes later to restore its three-goal advantage.
“It was a goofy period, really,” Drewiske said. “A lot of emotions going on in that period. We get a big goal from Cody and then we’re up. They cut it back to two goals. It’s nerve-racking, but I think we did a good job capitalizing on our opportunities.
“They obviously were down, so they were pressing a little bit. It probably was a little bit out of character for them, having defensemen down the wall and our guys getting breaks. And we buried our opportunities.”