MADISON, WI — Two years ago, it was the David Hukalo series. This year, it was Rene Bourque’s turn.
The last time Wisconsin played host to North Dakota at Madison’s Kohl Center, then-sophomore Hukalo won back-to-back overtime games, 3-2 and 6-5, with both game-winning goals scored from just outside the crease.
Friday night, sophomore wing Rene Bourque gave Wisconsin a 7-6 overtime victory with a goal scored from just outside the crease and to the right of Fighting Sioux senior goaltender Andy Kollar.
Saturday night, the Badgers took a 2-1 lead in the third period when Bourque pounced on a rebound just in front of the crease and to the left of North Dakota freshman goalie Jake Brandt.
“It has got to be a great thrill for Rene,” Sauer said. “Two years ago we win two games and Huk wins both games for us, and this weekend Rene Bourque gets the two goals to beat North Dakota.”
Senior center Kent Davyduke added an empty-netter at 19:56 to give the Badgers a 3-1 win.
Wisconsin freshman goalie Bernd Bruckler had 46 saves for the Badgers. “They got some quality chances,” Badgers coach Jeff Sauer said. “But when they did, [Bruckler] came up big for us, no question about it.”
On Bourque’s game winner at 13:43 in the third, freshman center Alex Leavitt took the initial shot, skating through the circle and wheeling in the slot. Brandt made the initial save, but was out of position for the rebound that caromed directly to Bourque in front of the net.
“It feels good, I have to say,” Bourque said. “But just to get the sweep at home against North Dakota, and any time you do that it is a big weekend.” The play was set up by wing Matt Doman’s hard work behind the net, helping the Badgers control the puck in the zone.
Doman took a lead pass through the neutral zone and skated the puck through the offensive zone and behind the net. He then fended off a defender and left the puck behind the net. Leavitt worked the puck through the circle before Bourque finished off the play.
“Matt Doman played kind of reckless abandon both nights and really worked hard to get the puck,” Sauer said. “Leavitt made a great play to pull people down. He is really quick with the puck in tight like that.”
Midway through the first period, North Dakota wing Ryan Bayda had a shorthanded opportunity against Bruckler with the Badgers Davyduke and sophomore defenseman Dan Boeser giving chase.
Bayda’s backhand attempt went wide and the Badgers quickly moved the puck up ice, leading to an unconventional two-on-one for UW forwards senior Matt Hussey and junior Brad Winchester. Hussey hustled after the puck in the offensive zone, dove along the ice near the top of the circle and poked the puck toward Winchester, who was alone in the slot. Winchester capitalized on the opportunity, firing the puck past Brandt.
“No question the first period North Dakota has a history of coming out strong,” Sauer said. “We were a bit flat and we were tired. Last night took a lot out of us. We weathered the storm.”
North Dakota evened the score early in the second period on a pretty play by junior wings Tim Skarperud and Ryan Bayda. After Skarperud tracked down a rebound near the corner, he skated quickly around the net and sent the puck toward the low slot for Bayda, who fired it past Bruckler.
North Dakota had an opportunity to take the lead late in the second period, but Bruckler was true to the challenge. On a power play, Skarperud put a low wrist shot on net from the point with junior wing Jason
Notermann camped out in front for the rebound. Bruckler, however, extended and made a fine glove save before Notermann could make a play on the puck.
Early in the third period with the score still 1-1, North Dakota’s Skarperud skated into the offensive zone and fired a shot from above the circle that handcuffed Bruckler.
The Badger netminder made the save, but the puck trickled through his pads and fell beneath him. As the puck slid precariously toward the goal line, Bruckler turned and lunged. He managed to cover the puck with his blocker hand just as it reached the line. The puck, however, skirted out of Bruckler’s hand and slightly into the crease. With an ND player bearing down on the loose puck, Bruckler managed to get his stick on the ice to close off the scoring opportunity and allow the Badgers to clear the puck from harm’s way.
“It was right on the line,” Bruckler said. “I just waved it out and then our boys did a really good job in clearing the rebounds and getting the puck out of the zone when we had traffic in front of me.”
About six minutes into the third period, Bruckler slid across and made a save on a point blank opportunity by Fighting Sioux wing Brian Canady. On his follow-through, however, the blade of Canady’s stick caught Bruckler in the chest. For a few minutes it looked as if the play had injured Bruckler, but the goalie remained in the game and remained sharp.
“[Last night] seemed to rejuvenate us,” Doman said. “Morale was high and it hasn’t been high. The snowball has been going downhill for us. And I think we took two really big steps this weekend trying to get that thing pushed up the hill again. I think we made two really big steps towards being a good team this weekend.”