MADISON, WI — For 46 minutes Friday, North Dakota was in control, dominating host Wisconsin.
By the time the third period came to a close, however, the Badgers had erased a 6-2 deficit, and less than two minutes into overtime Wisconsin’s Rene Bourque clinched a wild 7-6 victory.
“Well, you are sitting there at 6-2 and you are looking up at the clock; no doubt, yeah, I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to say to you guys [about the would-be loss],” Badgers coach Jeff Sauer said. “We gutted it out and got it done.”
Starting at 6:39 in the third, the Badgers rattled off three goals in just more than five minutes to draw within a goal. Then, with just 2:35 to play, one of the smallest Badgers on the ice came up big.
Sophomore walk-on center Jake Heisler, standing all of 5-9, fought through a mess in front of North Dakota goaltender Andy Kollar and found the five-hole to tie the game at 6-6.
Bourque put the finishing touches on Wisconsin’s comeback at 1:59 in the overtime period with a point blank shot.
Wisconsin’s victory, however, did not come without its share of controversy. The Badgers’ fifth goal followed a penalty that North Dakota coach Dean Blais found objectionable.
As the action moved up ice, Wisconsin freshman center Alex Leavitt was skating toward his bench when he caught the stick of North Dakota defenseman Andy Schneider. Leavitt appeared to hit Schneider’s stick with his hand after it hit him and then fall wildly to the ice. Assistant referee Pat McMahon called Schneider for high-sticking.
“It was the penalty by the AR that turned the game around,” Blais said. “It would have been different if was called by the referee who made a judgment call, but a call by the AR? What the hell are you doing blowing your whistle even? It’s not your decision.
“He grabbed his stick and it was right in front of him and he fell down,” said Blais. “The crowd yells for a penalty and he calls it?
“No, uh-uh. I don’t complain about refereeing or AR’s — if it is once a year, it is a lot. And it was a lot tonight.”
“I didn’t see the play,” Sauer said. “We scored a power-play goal, but I did not see the play so I can’t comment on what transpired.”
“I was hooked in the face very hard,” Leavitt said. “I wouldn’t say I dived, but I’d say I embellished it a little bit.
“I was just going off to the bench and I see them going on a three-on-two rush and I figured, what the heck.”
The Fighting Sioux had a couple of great scoring chances late in the third period.
At 18:17 freshman wing Brandon Bochenski found himself wide open in front of the net, but the centering feed was a little too far in front. Bochenski kicked it into the net, but the goal was quickly waved off.
Then, with just four seconds left in regulation, senior defenseman Aaron Schneekloth hit the crossbar, marking the third time the Fighting Sioux hit a pipe during the game.
Wisconsin also had other golden opportunities in a game that included 13 goals. Kollar stopped two breakaways; a second period opportunity by Badgers senior center Andy Wheeler; and a chance by Heisler that came just one shift before the game-tying goal.
“When [Heisler] made that play going down the ice, Andy Wheeler or somebody on the bench said, ‘Jake, you are going to get a goal on the next shift,’” Sauer said. “Then he goes out and gets it and he has to feel 10 feet tall.”
North Dakota opened the game with a bang, scoring on its first two shots on goal to take a 2-0 lead just 5:30 into the game.
Wing Ryan Bayda started the scoring less than four minutes into the game. At 5:30 Chris Fournier found the five-hole for North Dakota’s second goal in as many shots.
An odd-man rush at 10:57 in the first period gave the Fighting Sioux a 3-0 lead. Kabotoff made the first save on defenseman Chad Mazurak on a shot from the slot, but wing Brian Canady pounced on the rebound.
Wisconsin wing Brad Winchester wheeled in the slot and fired a slapshot past Kollar to put the Badgers on the board less than a minute into the second period.
But two power-play goals helped the Fighting Sioux maintain a three-goal advantage, 5-2, after two periods.
North Dakota senior defenseman Chad Mazurak seemingly put the game on ice with another power-play goal at 3:15 in the third.
Leavitt started the Badger rally with a power-play goal at 6:39 in the third. Kollar poke-checked Leavitt’s initial shot, sending the puck fluttering into the air, but Leavitt snagged it with the blade of his stick and directed it into the net to give the Badgers life.
“At the time you are just looking for a thread of hope to get back into the game,” Leavitt said. “Before you know it, it’s 6-5 with about four minutes to go in the game.”
North Dakota sophomore center David Lundbohm suffered a bruised thigh in Friday’s game after catching a knee by Matt Doman on an open-ice check. Blais said after the game that Lundbohm might miss two to three weeks with the injury.
“That one should have been a major penalty by Doman,” Blais said. “He kneed David Lundbohm and the referee saw it, and it should have been a major.”
In the last nine meetings between North Dakota and Wisconsin, six have been decided in overtime.
In the team’s series in Wisconsin two years ago, wing David Hukalo won two games in overtime with shots from just in front of the crease, similar to the play Bourque made Friday.