ST. PAUL, Minn. — It was clear Wisconsin lost out on a special talent when defenseman Patrick Wiercioch decided to pull back his verbal commitment to the Badgers and head to Denver.
In five head-to-head meetings since, Wiercioch has proceeded to lay out, in great detail, how much the Badgers missed.
Not that Wiercioch has ever publicly let on that he cranks things up another notch when the Badgers are on the other bench. He, in fact, has routinely said the opposite.
But numbers are numbers. And Wiercioch’s four goals and 10 points in five games against Wisconsin this season present the case pretty well.
Wiercioch plunged the dagger into the Badgers Friday afternoon in the WCHA Final Five semifinals, scoring a third-period goal that provided a three-goal lead.
And he contributed to a Denver defensive effort that again stifled the Badgers, providing a fifth win in five tries.
“I think our team generally has been playing well against this team,” Wiercioch said in again deflecting attention away from his decommitment to Wisconsin. “… When you get team success, I think it just helps you out individually.”
At least on the surface, there was little animosity between the teams because of Wiercioch’s move in the offseason.
A 2008 second-round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, Wiercioch committed to the Badgers last season, with plans to go to Madison in the fall of 2009.
But when Denver lost incoming freshman David Carle to a heart ailment before he could even take the ice for the Pioneers, Denver had an open spot on the blue line for this season.
And because Wisconsin had its defensive corps full for the season, that’s how Wiercioch was playing for Denver on Friday instead of for Wisconsin.
He and the Pioneers just kept doing what they’ve done well against the Badgers this season.
Denver went 5-0 against Wisconsin this season, with back-to-back shutouts from Marc Cheverie to close things out.
Cheverie hasn’t allowed a goal in the last 138:29 against the Badgers, and the shutouts were of the 45-save and 42-save varieties.
“Sometimes you have a good feeling about the opponent you’re playing against,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “You like playing against them for a number of reasons.”
Whatever the reason, Wiercioch had the Badgers’ number this season.
He had two goals and an assist in his WCHA debut on Oct. 17 and added an assist a night later.
After putting up an assist in an overtime victory on Feb. 21 in Madison, he had a hand in four of the Pioneers’ goals in a 5-0 victory a night later, with a goal and three assists.
On Friday, he struck on the power play, zinging a shot past Wisconsin goaltender Shane Connelly to provide the final margin and crush any hopes of a Wisconsin comeback.
Nothing personal, of course.
“I was definitely excited when I committed to Wisconsin about it, but it wasn’t in the cards,” Wiercioch said of his canceled enrollment at Wisconsin. “I had to make a decision that was in my best interest, and it’s worked out well so far.”