MADISON, Wis. — The Russian Select Team skated into town and used an explosive third period to defeat Wisconsin 5-1 on Tuesday at the Kohl Center.
The Badgers, though, may have lost more than a hockey game. As wing Andy Wheeler started to skate up ice late in the first period, he was slashed across the back of the knee. Wheeler instantly fell to the ice and grabbed his leg in pain, then skated gingerly to the bench as play continued.
Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said Wheeler aggravated an ankle injury that originally occurred Nov. 11 against Alaska-Anchorage, one that had not fully healed. He is, however, expected to return in time for the Badgers’ holiday tournament at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Dec. 28-29.
“It’s good that there is a break,” Sauer said. “It will probably take as long as the break to get him back to 100 percent. He hasn’t been 100 percent since he hurt it.”
Russian center Alexei Tsvetkov started the game’s scoring on a point-blank rebound opportunity. Wisconsin goaltender Scott Kabotoff made the initial save on a shot by Iouri Troubachtev, but the rebound caromed right to Tsvetkov, who was cutting toward the net.
Wisconsin nearly tied the game late in the first period when center Kent Davyduke’s shot from the low slot hit the pipe.
Wisconsin cracked the scoreboard when Dany Heatley rifled a one-timer from the slot passed Russia goaltender Serguei Nikolaev 13 minutes into the second period.
After penalties by Badger wing Erik Jensen and defenseman Mark Jackson, Russia had a five-on-three power play at 18:58 in the second period.
“I thought we were playing a very good game, 1-1, and then the penalty call that put us five-on-three, it is a non-call,” Sauer said. “And the faceoff itself should have been outside [of the zone] because the ref didn’t call the penalty, the linesman did.”
Russia went to work early in the power play, showing off its precision passing and keeping Wisconsin’s penalty killers on the run. Shortly into the power play, Russian defenseman Alexei Danilov sent a pass from the point to Tsvetkov, who quickly sent a pass to the back door for wing Alexandre Chinkar, who was open just above the crease.
Chinkar one-timed the puck on net, but Kabotoff slid across and made a nice save.
Danilov, though, broke the tie soon thereafter with a slap shot from the top of the circle that beat Kabotoff short side to put the Russian Select Team ahead 2-1.
The floodgates opened in the third period in favor of Russia.
Russia took a 3-1 lead when Kabotoff skated well out of the crease to play the puck and could not clear it out of the zone. Center Illia Dokchine got to the puck along the boards and found the back of the net before Kabotoff could get back into position to make a save.
“I felt sorry for [Kabotoff] on the third one,” Sauer said. “He went to clear the puck and the Russian kid anticipated it. You give him 10 pucks in that spot and he may only score one, but today he scored the one.”
Dokchine and linemate Igor Radoulov added goals within the next four minutes to make it 5-1.
“Over the holiday break hopefully there are some goals under the Christmas tree because that is what we need,” Sauer said.