MADISON, Wis. — At the Kohl Center Friday, the Wisconsin crowd was treated to a 3-2 Badger win over St. Cloud State in a game that seemed like UW was using two entirely different teams.
There was one squad that scored three goals, including two in the first 3:08 of the game, and another that allowed a 2-0 lead to slip away as the Huskies tied the game at two early in the third period.
From there the Badgers put in the game-winner a little over three minutes later to earn Wisconsin its first home victory since a Jan. 19 defeat of Minnesota.
“We got the early lead and probably sat back more than we should have, and allowed them back in it,” Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said.
The Badgers opened the contest on a high note as Dave Hergert scored a power-play goal at the 2:33 mark. On the play senior Alex Brooks passed the puck over to Hergert, who quickly shot the puck past distracted goaltender Scott Meyer.
Thirty-five seconds later Wisconsin knocked in a second goal. Dany Heatley got off a wraparound pass that was deflected right in front of the goal, but into the path of Matt Doman skating in. Doman made fast work of the puck, shooting it into the open side of the net for a 2-0 lead.
In the remainder of the period Wisconsin consistently put pressure on the Husky defense, but the Badgers were unable to capitalize. The focus that was seen early in the game began to fade in the second period as UW appeared to be comfortable with its two-goal advantage.
A little more then seven minutes into the second, St. Cloud State showed that the game was not over. Husky defenseman Derek Eastman fired a shot just to Graham Melanson’s left that was deflected by Jeff Finger into the back of the net, bringing the score to 2-1.
While no other goals were scored in the second period, something of note did occur at the 12:09 mark when Graham Melanson made a routine save. The save was Melanson’s 3,518th of his career at Wisconsin, breaking the all-time UW mark set by Kirk Daubenspeck. Earlier that night Melanson set another career mark by making his 130th appearance as a Badger.
“He was phenomenal in the last period, he was phenomenal in the whole game,” assistant captain Kevin Granato said. “He got us the win tonight.”
The seemingly lackadaisical effort continued early in the third period as St. Cloud tied the game at two 4:24 in. Defenseman Ryan LaMere received a cross-ice pass, stopped the puck and then fired a long slapshot. The shot was redirected by Matt Hendricks, allowing the puck to slide between Melanson’s legs for the equalizer.
The goal proved to be a wakeup call to a Wisconsin team that currently resides in the fifth and final spot for home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
“There was no panic on the bench when they scored the second goal,” Sauer said.
The Badgers responded a little over three minutes later with a goal that would prove to be the difference in the game. Around midice, Wisconsin forward Brad Winchester gathered a loose puck and sent it forward to a streaking Kevin Granato.
With no one in front of him except the goaltender, Granato faked a shot toward the middle of the goal and then deftly moved the puck over to Meyer’s left, where Granato flicked the puck past the St. Cloud goaltender.
“It was a great move; I didn’t think he would go back to his backhand,” Sauer said.
In the remainder of the game the Huskies were presented with opportunities to force an overtime, including a power play at 9:26 in the third period. But Wisconsin’s penalty killing unit proved to be up to the challenge, not allowing the Huskies to score on any of their three power-play opportunities in the contest.
The victory brought Wisconsin’s unbeaten streak to five games.
“The big thing was Graham and the way we played,” Sauer said. “It maybe was the biggest win of the year for us.”