MADISON, Wis. — In an exciting hockey game in which the two teams combined for 69 shots, Wisconsin broke a five-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Colorado College — care of a broken stick.
With 56 seconds left in the game and the Tigers controlling the zone, Colorado College pulled goaltender Colin Zulianello in favor of an extra skater. Tiger wing Peter Sejna started a flurry of opportunities by skating the puck in deep and sending a centering feed to defenseman Mike Stuart, who was cutting through the slot. Stuart, though, could not quite get a stick on the puck.
Colorado College continued to cycle the puck and keep it in the zone, though, and both Sejna and defenseman Tom Preissing fired open shots over the net.
With about 20 seconds remaining, the Tigers had their best opportunity as wing Justin Morrison, who was wide open just above the crease, received a pass from the below the circle. Morrison probably could have slammed home the game-tying goal before Badger goaltender Graham Melanson made it to the far post, but the Tiger forward’s blade slipped out of the shaft of the stick, forcing him to fan on the shot.
“We are getting our opportunities, but it is a little reminiscent of the way we played last year,” Colorado College coach Scott Owens said. “We work pretty hard, we get a lot of shots, but just not a lot are going in.”
After Wisconsin iced the puck, Colorado College still had just more than six seconds to get a shot off. The Badgers, though, did a nice job of hemming the Tigers toward the boards off the faceoff, forcing a bad-angle attempt.
“People like to throw the word synergy around,” Melanson said. “It wasn’t there for a while. And we knew it and you guys knew it and the whole world knew it. It’s just … you have to put your heads down and work through it. I think it brought us closer as a team because the guys realized that you do have to stick together at these kind of times and hopefully things will start to turn around.”
Wisconsin controlled the game in the second period and for most of the third period, but Colorado College turned it up a notch toward the end of the game.
“[Assistant coach] Mark Johnson, about halfway through the third period, he came over and said, ‘We are going to win this game because everything that has gone wrong is going right for us tonight,’ ” Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said.
Wisconsin — which came into the game having converted on just five out of 55 power play attempts in WCHA games — tried something different on its first power play of the game.
When the Badgers set up in the Colorado College zone, they played a single-point system. Instead of having both defensemen play their conventional points, Wisconsin put one defenseman in a center-point position and moved the other defenseman and a wing to spots along the boards. Wisconsin’s other two forwards set up in the high slot and the low slot respectively.
The change in scheme worked on the Badgers first power play of the evening, when defenseman Jeff Dessner shot the puck through the screen of wing Brad Winchester, who was camped out in front of the net, and past Zulianello.
“We worked a lot this week on [the power play] and worked more on just getting the puck on net,” Sauer said.
In the second period, Wisconsin outshot the Tigers 19-2.
“The second period may have been the best period we have played in a long time,” Sauer said.
Colorado College evened the score with a power-play goal of its own at 4:31 in the second period. On the play, Tiger defenseman Tom Preissing fluttered a shot on goal that wing Chris Hartsburg deflected. Melanson seemingly had a bead on the puck, but the change of direction fooled him, and the puck skirted between his pads and across the goal line before the Wisconsin goaltender could recover.
“I was planning for it to hit my right pad and he got a stick on it and it hit my left knee and I felt it,” Melanson said. “It is one of those things where you don’t know if you move if you are going to kick it in or not and I turned around and it was trickling back.”
Just as Wisconsin’s second power play of the game ended, center Kent Davyduke made a pretty centering feed to wing Dany Heatley, who one-timed it home for a 2-1 lead at 8:20 in the second period.
“Davyduke made the play by getting the puck across,” Sauer said.
“[Dessner] and [David Hukalo] did a great job of holding it in and we kept putting pressure on them and Davyduke made a good pass,” Heatley said.
The Tigers may have lost more than a hockey game Friday night.
Colorado College — already without the services of leading scorer Mark Cullen, who is out six to eight weeks with a neck injury — lost senior captain Paul Manning to injury midway through the first period.
“We don’t know [the extent of the injury],” Owens said. “It was a knee cap. Obviously it is a big blow to us, especially on the heels of Mark Cullen being out.”