MADISON, Wis. — Friday night, the Denver Pioneers jumped out to a three-goal lead before the Wisconsin Badgers came roaring back with six consecutive goals to win the first game of their first-round WCHA playoff series, 6-4.
The Badgers got two goals each from Dany Heatley and Rene Bourque, who, along with linemate David Hukalo, accounted for 10 of the Badgers’ 15 points in the game.
The Pioneers got their three goals in a span of 61 seconds, beginning with a power-play goal at 7:38 of the first period. Ryan Caldwell found the top shelf and popped home a rebound of Chris Paradise’s shot.
Kelly Popadynetz added the Pioneers’ second goal just 13 seconds later, and then Max Bull completed the Pioneers’ first-period scoring with a shot from the slot, beating the Badgers’ Graham Melanson on the stick side.
Momentum then swung the Badgers’ way, as Heatley worked his magic to cut the margin to two goals. Coming down the left side of the rink, Heatley stickhandled behind the Pioneer defense, deked Pioneer goaltender Wade Dubielewicz, and beat him on the stick side.
The even-strength goal at 14:30 was the first of six in a row for Wisconsin. At 15:48 of the period the Badgers pulled within one when Matt Hussey and Matt Murray opened up a two-on-one. Hussey faked a pass to Murray and took the shot, again beating Dubielewicz on the stick side.
The Badgers went to the locker room down one, 3-2.
“The puck just bounced for them.” said Badger coach Jeff Sauer. “They really came on and put some pressure on, but even though we were down 3-2 at the end of the first period I felt like the momentum was definitely in our favor — getting two goals and coming back on them like we did.”
Despite being down 3-0, Heatley said the Badgers never lost faith. “I think we were confident that we were playing well. We were all over them the first five minutes and I think we had a two-minute lapse.
“We just got back going and got a couple of goals, and [that] got us back into it.”
Indeed, the momentum carried into the second period as the Badgers scored three more unanswered goals. Rene Bourque got the first of his two goals at 7:48 of the period when he tipped in Alex Brooks’ shot from the point. Heatley added his second goal when he backhanded the puck into the net at 9:37 for the Badgers’ first power-play goal of the game.
The Pioneers replaced Dubielewicz with Adam Berkhoel, but he allowed a goal later in the period and Dubielewicz went back in the net.
Bourque put the icing on the cake when Heatley passed him the puck and he got behind the Denver defense for a shot from the slot.
“Rene, he’s just on fire. You won’t see a goal like that maybe in the National Hockey League,” Sauer said of Bourque’s second goal. “That was a great goal, great dish by Heater, but a great goal.”
The Badgers dominated the second period, outshooting the Pioneers 19-6 and controlling play.
The Badgers and Pioneers traded goals in the third period. Hukalo got the Badgers’ second power-play goal of the game when he put home a rebound from the slot. Bourque and Heatley got the assists.
The Pioneers’ Judd Stauss added the second Pioneer power-play goal, scoring with just 19 seconds left in the game.
Melanson had 21 saves for the Badgers. The Pioneer goaltenders combined for 36 saves: Dubielewicz had 26, and Berkhoel 10.
Said Sauer, “We’re a dangerous team right now because we’ve got depth, we’re healthy and we’re hungry, and that’s three things that I think really are going to help us here.”
With the win before 6,794 fans, the Badgers lead the best-of-three series 1-0. The winner advances to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul next weekend.