MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin survived two early goals by Minnesota State-Mankato on Friday night in a 3-2 victory over the Mavericks to move to 3-0 in the WCHA and 5-0 overall.
“We played well enough to win,” Badgers coach Jeff Sauer said. “That is the important thing.”
Mankato (0-3, 0-3) opened the game’s scoring at 4:48 in the first period with a power-play goal.
On the play, Mavericks wing Tyler Baines put a wrist shot on net from just within the circle that was deflected by wing Tim Jackman over Wisconsin goalie Graham Melanson’s shoulder on the glove side.
“The guy got a stick on it and I didn’t think he was going to get a stick on it,” Melanson said. “If I could substitute an expletive in here I would because that is what kind of goal it was.”
The Mavericks nearly added another goal with about nine minutes left in the first period, when a shot trickled off Melanson toward the net. Wisconsin wing Matt Doman, though, was able to get his stick on the puck just as it touched the goal line, allowing Melanson to cover.
Eight seconds into a 4-on-3 power play, Mankato executed a beautiful backdoor play to make the score 2-0 at 15:29 in the first period. The Mavericks were able to find a gap in the Badgers defense as wing Nate Mauer found wing Jesse Rooney just outside the crease. Rooney fed a pretty pass through the crease to defenseman Joe Bourne for a point blank one-timer that found the back of the net.
“I think if I would have pulled Rooney on the side there; I kind of let him sit there too long and he made a great pass,” Melanson said. “But that was a play that should have been broken up and that is what happens when you let it go too long.”
Wisconsin nearly got a goal on a power play at the 17:54 mark in the first period when defenseman Brian Fahey’s wrist shot was deflected in front by Matt Doman. However, Mankato goaltender Todd Kelzenberg, who was playing in place of injured No.1 goalie Eric Pateman, was true to the test.
“I don’t think we were prepared for their tenacity and their aggressiveness,” Wisconsin wing Dany Heatley said. “They were really hungry in the first and came out really hard and I think it caught us off guard. We made the adjustment in the second period and started to get to the pucks first, and I think that is when the game started to change.”
Wisconsin got on the board on the power play at the 8:49 mark in the second period when defenseman Alex Brooks found Heatley for a one-timer from the bottom of the circle that beat Kelzenberg on the short side.
“I think [that goal] changed things for us,” Heatley said. “We got the power play going a little bit and Brooksie made a hell of a play and luckily I buried it.”
Just 15 seconds later, the Badgers nearly tied the game when defenseman Dan Boeser fired a slap shot from the high slot area and beat Kelzenberg five-hole. The shot, however, deflected off the Maverick goaltender’s skate and off the post. The puck then came out of the crowd in front of the net and out to Badger wing David Hukalo, whose wrist shot went high and wide of a virtually empty net.
The Badgers tied the game at two at the 12:30 mark in the second period when freshman center John Eichelberger’s centering pass deflected off Kelzenberg’s stick and then deflected off the shaft of Wisconsin wing Dave Hergert’s stick and into the net.
“That was a beautiful goal that Hergert scored,” Sauer said.
With about 13 1/2 minutes to play in the third period, Mankato nearly took the lead when wings Tim Jackson and Jesse Rooney skated in on a 2-on-1. Jackson skated toward the crease and froze the Wisconsin defenseman, then deked past Melanson. Jackson’s shot, though, trickled through the crease toward Rooney, but the Maverick forward deflected the puck just wide of the net.
Wisconsin took the lead at 11:30 in the third period when defenseman Alex Brooks fired a slap shot from just above the circle that somehow deflected off Heatley, who had been knocked to the ice on the play just above the crease, and found its way between Kelzenberg’s legs.
“It went off Heatley’s butt,” Sauer said. “The winning goal against Mankato was in the net and that is the important thing.”
“I guess it hit me,” Heatley said. “I felt a bunch of stuff. I don’t know. I’ll take it though.”