MADISON, Wis. — The game plan for Wisconsin this weekend against Michigan Tech was simple: sweep the Huskies and the Badgers would stay at home for the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
Wisconsin did just that. After a Friday-night 5-3 victory, UW came out Saturday at the Kohl Center and beat Michigan Tech, 1-0, as Saturday’s game provided a stark contrast to the eight-goal performance seen Friday.
The lone goal of the game came off the stick of forward Matt Doman early in the third period. After 42 minutes of scoreless hockey, Doman broke the drought with what had to be one of the easiest goals of the year.
On the play, Michigan Tech’s Clint Way gathered up the puck behind his own goal and played if off the boards. From there the puck took a lucky bounce for UW as it slid right in front of the goal. With Husky goaltender Brian Rogers not realizing where the puck was, all Doman had to do was poke it into the goal from where he was standing just outside the crease.
“Right place, right time,” Matt Murray said. “Empty net, you should get those every time. It was a fluke goal and if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.”
“One bad bounce and game over,” Michigan Tech coach Mike Sertich said.
While Saturday’s contest began with emotion as the Wisconsin seniors were introduced to the Kohl Center crowd for the last time, the game quickly turned to the mundane. Good goaltending and a slow start combined for a scoreless first period. Despite three power-play opportunities, two for Michigan Tech and one for Wisconsin, neither team could notch a goal in the opening frame.
The Huskies suffered from an inept power play all weekend, going 0-for-5 both Friday and Saturday nights.
“I was extremely happy with our penalty killing unit,” Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said.
The second period saw the contest deteriorate even more as neither team could find a rhythm. Quick whistles lead to penalties and a plethora of faceoffs and more importantly, no goals.
It was 2:11 into the third period when Doman’s tally ended the goalless affair, and the 18 minutes that followed the aberration that was the Wisconsin goal saw the contest revert back to its familiar role.
Michigan Tech did find itself with chances to score late in the game, but was unable to get the puck past Wisconsin goaltender Graham Melanson, who came up with 36 saves in his ninth career shutout and last game at Kohl.
“It was funny — the only time you stop to reflect is when it gets tough, you don’t realize how hard it is,” an emotional Melanson said. “I really enjoyed it.”
Perhaps the play of the game was made late in the third, on a save that came not from Melanson, but instead from the skate of defenseman Alex Brooks. With the puck close to the UW goal a Michigan Tech forward was able to get around Melanson, but not past Brooks, who was sprawled out in front of the goal, sealing the 1-0 victory.
The Badger victory meant that UW will host Denver next weekend in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, and allowed the Wisconsin senior class to leave the ice with one last win.
“One very impressive thing was after the seniors got off the ice, the team gave them a standing ovation,” Sauer said. “I thought it was a nice touch and fitting for this senior class.”