MILWAUKEE — Les Haggett was one of the first ones off the bench to mob Brown goaltender Yann Danis after the horn sounded.
It’s somewhat fitting because the pair was the difference in Thursday’s Bank One Badger Hockey Showdown semifinal.
Haggett scored with 2:24 remaining, sending the Bears into the championship game with a 2-1 victory over host Wisconsin at the Bradley Center.
“I don’t think one ECAC team has won this tournament yet. It would be nice to be the first,” said Haggett, whose team will play New Hampshire for the Pettit Cup at 8:05 p.m. Central on Friday. “We came in here and beat these guys in their territory, and it just feels really good.”
Danis made 25 saves, showing no ill effects of the long holiday break. The victory was his first of the season; the sophomore was playing in just his third game of the year.
“I thought Yann played a tremendous game tonight for us,” Brown coach Roger Grillo said. “He came up with a couple big, key saves early in the game to give us some confidence and get us rolling.”
In their third chance of the season, the Badgers (8-8-1) were again unable to extend a winning streak past two. They swept North Dakota in Madison, Wis., on Dec. 7 and 8, but were unable to keep that momentum alive over the break.
“I really don’t think momentum lasts for a month,” Wisconsin captain Andy Wheeler said. “We were just a little more sloppy tonight than they were, and they got the win.”
Haggett paid the price on his game-winning goal. Chris Dirkes’ floating shot from the right point landed just in front of Wisconsin goaltender Bernd Bruckler (31 saves), and the goalie couldn’t control the puck after it short-hopped him.
After sending the rebound into the net, Haggett had his helmet knocked off. It was well worth it.
“The soccer skills came into play — I trapped it down a bit and banged it home,” Haggett said. “It’s kind of a garbage goal but, hey, they all count.”
Adam Saunders put Brown (4-5-1) ahead 1-0 at 11:07 of the first period, allowing the Bears to play a more defensive style that appeared to suit them well.
But the Badgers broke through on Danis 2:32 into the third period. Matt Hussey redirected a Brad Winchester shot for a 1-1 tie.
Haggett, though, made sure overtime wasn’t necessary.
“I remember reading something … about how there’s kind of been a downfall in the ECAC,” he said. “You’re always trying to represent your conference, but mostly, it’s for Brown. We’ve been at the bottom of the pack the last few years, and we want to turn it around.”