MADISON, Wis. — There seems to be something about Saturdays for Wisconsin, especially coming off a Friday night win.
One has to look no further then the Badgers last home series — Jan. 19-20 versus Minnesota — in which UW came into the Saturday contest fresh off a Friday win only to lose the encore 8-2.
The news was more of the same for Wisconsin against St. Cloud State Saturday as UW was blown out 5-1 after earning a 3-2 victory the night before.
“Saturday nights at home have been real frustrating,” Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said. “We really shot ourselves in the foot. Everybody was aware of the importance tonight. Its been the execution that has been difficult on Saturday night.”
Although the game ended up being nothing more than shooting practice for St. Cloud, the night started out with neither team being able to accomplish much offensively.
The opening frame saw a period that could be best described as a stalemate. Neither Wisconsin or St. Cloud State was able to muster a goal or obtain a power-play opportunity.
The Huskies outshot UW 11-3 in the period and 39-26 for the game, but that advantage went for nought in the first period as nothing resembling a puck found its way into the net.
The standstill finally ended 7:54 into the second period when St. Cloud wing Keith Anderson had the puck on a breakaway. Anderson skated in on UW goaltender Graham Melanson and shot a wrister that trickled between Melanson’s legs, ending the scoreless tie.
Wisconsin did, however, have a chance to tie the score less than a minute later, when it went on a 4-on-3 power play that turned into a 5-on-3 power play 30 seconds later as a Wisconsin penalty ended.
The Badgers were unable, though, to take advantage, and ended up 1-for-4 on power plays on the evening.
“When we had the four-on-three we didn’t get off any quality shots, and that really could have helped us get in the game,” Sauer said.
Later in the second period the Huskies added a second goal when Brandon Sampair passed the puck between his legs from his position by the boards to teammate Tyler Arnason. Arnason received the puck close in on Melanson and flicked the puck past the UW goaltender to give St. Cloud a 2-0 lead.
With only 12.4 seconds left in the second period St. Cloud added a third goal that broke the back of the Wisconsin squad. On the play Arnason struck again, gathering up a loose puck a few feet in front of the goal. From there the junior shot it between Melanson’s legs, effectively ending any chance of a Wisconsin victory before the third period had even begun.
“The last 10 minutes of the second period was really the difference,” Sauer said. “The goal that really hurt was the one in the last 12 seconds.”
In the third period the Husky onslaught continued as St. Cloud State added two more goals.
Keith Anderson put in St. Cloud’s fourth goal of the evening at the 9:01 mark in the period, and with less then two minutes to go Joe Motzko notched another Husky goal off an excellent Jon Cullen pass from behind the goal that went through a crowd of Badgers.
About five minutes before that, Wisconsin put in its only goal of the night, off the stick of Andy Wheeler. UW found itself on a power play and utilized excellent puck movement to eventually get the puck past goaltender Scott Meyer.
On the play the puck eventually made its way to Matt Doman via Alex Brooks, Doman quickly scooted the puck over to Wheeler, who was positioned at the open corner of the goal and was able to knock it in before Meyer had a chance to react.
The lone Badger goal prevented UW from being shut out for the first time since its last series — ironically enough, against St. Cloud on Dec. 8-9.
As for conference implications, the Husky victory moves St. Cloud into sole position of third place in the WCHA, while Wisconsin remains in the fifth and final spot for home-ice advantage in the first round of the conference playoffs.
“I thought our team was committed to playing for 60 minutes,” St. Cloud coach Craig Dahl said. “Tonight we had to get the points; our guys were desperate.”