MADISON, WIS. — In what on paper seemed to be a tune-up for the WCHA season, the Wisconsin Badgers hosted the Wayne State Warriors, a team that three years ago did not exist. But it was anything but easy for Wisconsin as the Warriors’ entered the third period with a 4-3 lead.
After Wisconsin freshman center Alex Leavitt followed his own shot tie the score at four midway through the final period, the Warriors’ Jack Redwood notched the game-winning goal with 4:37 remaining in the third period, giving Wayne State a surprising 5-4 victory.
While the score had Wayne State winning, it was Wisconsin who dominated the style of play early. Just 62 seconds into the game, Wisconsin senior forward Matt Murray found senior winger Matt Doman. Doman placed his shot over the outstretched glove of Warriors goaltender Dave Guerrera.
With a penalty by Wayne State defenseman Keith Stanich, the Badgers saw their first power play of the year. They wasted no time in converting as forward David Hukalo skated through the slot and put the puck in the back of the net, increasing Wisconsin’s lead to 2-0.
Seemingly in control of the contest, the Badgers continued to put the pressure on the Warriors, winning all of the physical battles as the period wound down. But with 13 seconds remaining, a defensive breakdown by the Badgers allowed Wayne State forward Dusty Kingston to take a cross-ice pass from center Jason Durbin, skate past three UW players and score over the head of Wisconsin goaltender Scott Kabotoff, cutting the Warriors’ deficit to one at 2-1 after one period.
To Wayne State head coach Bill Wilkinson, the late first-period goal drastically changed the momentum of the contest.
“It just put us right back in the hockey game,” Wilkinson said. “I think it was a key goal by Dusty.”
Though Wisconsin gave up the late first-period goal, the Badgers came right back out and regained their two-goal advantage 19 seconds into the second as defenseman Dan Boeser launched a shot from the blue line and underneath the pad of Guerrera.
Then Guerrera stepped up for Wayne State, coming up with several crucial saves that kept the deficit at two. On the evening Guerrera made 50 saves, many of which were on the side of improbable.
While Guerrera kept Wisconsin out of the net for the rest of the second period, Wayne State was able to capitalize on several Wisconsin miscues.
Off of a face-off deep in the Wisconsin zone, Durbin was able to defeat the Badgers’ Kent Davyduke on the draw, giving a clean chance to Kingston who notched his second tally of the evening, tying the score at three.
Then, off of a turnover by Badger defenseman Rob Vega, winger Chris Vail had a breakaway on Kabotoff. Going five-hole on the junior goaltender, Vail was too quick and gave the lead to Wayne State after two periods.
Wisconsin head coach Jeff Sauer felt the three turnovers and the face-off that led to goals were the crucial turning points.
“Well, very simply, we turned the puck over three times,” Sauer said. “We lost a face-off, they scored a goalthe third goal was a turnover on the defensive blue line by [Vega]. That was the difference in the game.”
Despite being outshot 54 to 27, Wayne State managed to utilize its trapping defense to capitalize on the Wisconsin breakdowns, allowing the Warriors to earn big road victory.
For Wilkinson, it was the type of hockey game he is used to seeing out of his squad.
“That’s kind of our trademark,” Wilkinson said. “We try to play a defensive style that gives us an opportunity [to win.] ”
Though Wisconsin lost its home opener, Sauer was not overly concerned about the ramifications of the defeat.
“This isn’t the end of the world,” Sauer said. “There’s still plenty of hockey to be played.”
The Warriors (1-2-0) and the Badgers (0-1-0) meet again Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in the Kohl Center.