DULUTH, Minn. — It was Rob Anderson’s finest performance as a Minnesota-Duluth goaltender, but it still wasn’t enough. The sophomore from Superior, Wis., stopped 47 of 51 Wisconsin shots Saturday night, in a losing effort, as the Badgers skated away with a 4-3 overtime victory.
Dan Boeser scored the game-winner for Wisconsin, helping the Badgers (10-8, 7-5 WCHA) complete a weekend sweep in the WCHA series. Boeser collected a loose puck in the high slot, and sent a shot that found its way over Anderson and into the UMD (2-12, 1-9 WCHA) net.
Anderson thinks the goal came off of a deflection.
“I think it hit someone in the back,” he said. “I don’t know how it went in.”
Despite outshooting the Bulldogs 51-23, the overtime goal turned out to be the only lead Wisconsin held in the game.
The Badgers came out buzzing, dominating the first 10 minutes of play with a 10-1 shot advantage. But nothing was getting past Anderson.
He slammed the door on several Wisconsin scoring opportunities, including a backhand wraparound by Matt Murray and a shot by Dany Heatley that rang off the crossbar, chances that occurred just seconds apart.
The tide turned in the second half of the opening stanza when Duluth scored the game’s first goal while on a 5-on-3 power play.
With defenseman Rob Vega out for holding and center Kent Davyduke in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct at the 11:47 mark, the Bulldogs quickly took advantage. Just 20 seconds after the penalties were called, UMD connected thanks to a combination of crisp perimeter passing. It started when Andy Reierson sent a pass from the right point to Jon Francisco, who was positioned along the goal line. Francisco then quickly directed a pass to Nate Anderson, who tipped the puck past Graham Melanson for his eighth goal of the year.
UMD took the 1-0 lead into the locker room, but didn’t hold it very long in the second period.
The Badgers again started the period strong, sending five shots on net in the first two minutes. It was marksmanlike precision by defenseman Alex Brooks that was needed to tie the game. The Wisconsin captain jumped on a loose puck in the faceoff circle to the left of the UMD goaltender, and sent a wrist shot the squeezed through a crack between Anderson’s glove side and the post.
The goal sparked the most dominating period of the game for the Badgers, who outshot UMD in the middle stanza by a 20-4 margin. Yet the Badgers couldn’t find the lead.
In fact, they lost the lead for a short amount of time. UMD made it 2-1when Andy Reierson rifled a shot that was deflected into the Badger net by Francisco at 16:33, for Francisco’s fourth goal of the season.
Wisconsin needed only 20 seconds to respond. Sophomore standout Heatley flipped a Murray rebound over a sprawling Anderson to knot the game up at 2.
The teams continued to play even hockey for the rest of the second period and the early portions of the third. UMD then took its third lead of the hockey game. After taking a pass from Francisco, Nate Anderson streaked up the right side and fired a wrist shot that found its way through Melanson’s legs for his second goal of the night, and ninth of the season.
The Bulldogs carried that lead for most of the remainder of the period, despite a flurry of offensive chances created by the Badgers. The line of Heatley, Murray and Matt Doman carried most of the play for Wisconsin. The line connected for four of the five goals in the first game of the series against UMD on Friday night, and it would perform one more heroic Saturday night.
With Duluth shorthanded thanks to a holding penalty called against Judd Medak with 1:47 left in regulation, Wisconsin attacked UMD defenses with six skaters. Anderson stopped several point-blank opportunities, until a scramble in front of the net resulted in a Heatley shot somehow trickling across the line and tying the game with less than 32 seconds left on the clock.
That goal also baffled the Bulldog netminder.
“It was the flukiest goal ever,” Anderson said. “It just kept bouncing.”
Yet Anderson had praise for Heatley’s line, and said it deserved the most credit for the two wins during the weekend.
“You shut Heatley’s line down, you shut down the entire team.”
Boeser agreed, but he also complimented Anderson. “He stood on his head,” Boeser said. “Without him, [the score] could have been a lot worse.”
Boeser and Anderson are former junior hockey teammates from when the two played with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers.
For Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer, the outcome couldn’t have been better.
“That was the best game we’ve played all season,” he said.
The weekend’s two wins snapped a spell in which the Badgers went 1-8 in games dating back to Oct. 28, after starting the season 7-0.