MADISON, WI — Defending national champion Boston College’s rough start continued Friday in Madison.
Wisconsin (3-2-1 overall, 1-1-0 WCHA) benefited from opportunistic goalscoring and a 41-save performance by goaltender Scott Kabotoff in a 5-2 victory.
The Eagles (2-4-1, 0-2-0 HEA) constantly peppered Kabotoff, but could not find the net when they needed to, faring particularly poorly on the power play. The Badgers gave up the man advantage eight times, but BC went 0-for-8.
“I think special teams were really our key, our failure to convert,” Boston College coach Jerry York said, “though we created some good chances.”
It was Wisconsin, however, that took advantage of its chances Friday evening, with five different players scoring goals on just 25 shots.
For the Badgers, though, the story was Kabotoff. After losing the season opener to Wayne State, Kabotoff has earned victories over last year’s national finalists, North Dakota and Boston College, on consecutive weekends.
“[Kabotoff] played great,” Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said. “I don’t think there is any question that he has answered some questions here as far as whether he can play the position. I think he has come on and played very strong and shown what he can do.”
“[My confidence] is definitely going up,” Kabotoff said. “It’s higher than it was the first day, but I think it can get higher yet as I get more comfortable.”
Despite the victory, however, Sauer opened his press conference with a list of things that his team could do better.
“I thought there were about three areas where we weren’t very good tonight,” Sauer said. “We didn’t do a good job of holding their forwards up. I thought our forwards didn’t do a good job of stepping in the way and giving our defensemen a chance to get back to the puck. Number two, a couple of the penalties that we took were penalties that we can’t afford to take against good teams. But we did an excellent job of killing penalties. Probably the third thing was that we seemed to rush things at times when we didn’t have to.
“I don’t look at it as negatives, I look at it as things that we need to improve on.”
Wisconsin opened the scoring at 2:41 in the second period on a slapshot from the right point by defenseman Rob Vega. The shot went high, far-side and found its way beneath Eagle goaltender Tim Kelleher’s right arm.
Another Badger defenseman beat Kelleher on a shot from the point at 7:08 in the second. This time sophomore Andy Wozniewski fired from the left point, beating Kelleher with a low, far-side shot that glided past Kelleher’s outstretched skate and glanced just inside the post.
BC had a chance to stop the momentum with a pair of power plays following the Badgers’ second goal. Wisconsin, though, continued to blank BC on the power play, despite a peppering of shots on Kabotoff.
With the momentum firmly in hand, Wisconsin brought the Kohl Center crowd to frenzy by taking a 3-0 lead at 14:43 in the second when wing Matt Hussey one-timed a pass from linemate Brad Winchester past Kelleher.
There were only so many opportunities Kabotoff could thwart, however. At 15:47 in the second period, on its 24th shot of the game and 13th of the period, BC got on the board.
On the play, center Ales Dolinar found wing Ned Havern wide-open coming through the slot. Havern put a nice move on Kabotoff, but the Badger netminder was true to the challenge, getting the pad out and making a textbook kick-save. Havern’s mini-breakaway, though, left Kabotoff in no position to control the rebound, and with the Badgers’ skaters absent from the picture, wing Ryan Murphy pounced on the puck and fired it over Kabotoff’s shoulder to make it 3-1.
Boston College seemingly tilted the ice in its favor through most of the third period, but Wisconsin scored twice, and the Eagles garnered just one goal for the trouble of taking 15 shots.
The likely turning point came at the 9:04 in the third, when, despite dominating the period up until that point, Boston College yielded a power-play goal that put the Badgers ahead 4-2. The Eagles nearly cleared the puck just before the goal, but Wisconsin did a nice job of holding it in and wing Rene Bourque found David Hukalo wide open in front of the net. Kelleher looked to be either anticipating a deflection or attempting to poke-check the puck away from Hukalo. In any case, Kelleher was left without a stick and Hukalo backhanded it into the net.
“I thought 3-2, we close it to 3-2 and we’re killing a penalty and we [had] just a failure to clear,” York said. “They didn’t really have much going, it was on the wall and bang, it was in the net.”
Andy Wheeler put the game away at 15:56 in the third. Dan Boeser set up the play, racing down the sideboards and centering toward Kent Davyduke, who was wide open just above the crease. Davyduke couldn’t handle the pass, but BC defenseman Bill Cass partially fanned on the clear. Wheeler picked up the loose change and shelved it on Kelleher to extend the lead to 5-2.
Boston College’s third-period goal came on a high-slot shot from defenseman J.D. Forrest that used a slew of screens in front before going over Kabotoff’s shoulder.
“I thought our club played well,” York said. “We showed some good positive signs from what I’m looking at. We created some good offensive chances. I thought despite being 0 for whatever we moved the puck pretty well on the power play.”