MADISON, Wis. — Playing your No. 2 goalie against the third-ranked team in the country? No problem. Wisconsin got 32 saves from freshman goaltender Bernd Bruckler and dominated throughout for a 4-1 victory over St. Cloud State. The win followed a 2-2 tie Friday night in which Bruckler saved 25 shots in relief of junior Scott Kabotoff, who suffered a strained knee in Friday’s first period.
“We got out-hit, out-hustled, and out-disciplined,” St. Cloud coach Craig Dahl said. “Really got beat in every facet of the game.”
“We did a lot of things tonight,” Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said. “More than anything we proved to ourselves if we play hard we can win hockey games.”
The win was the 650th of Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer’s career.
Asked if he kept any mementos from his many milestones Sauer replied, “I’ve kept every one of the game cards along the way and I’ll make a note that this was that game tonight, especially against a team like St. Cloud.”
Wisconsin senior center Matt Murray celebrated his birthday with two goals Saturday and the Badgers once again shut down one of the best power plays in the nation.
“I can’t say enough about the penalty kill. I can’t say enough about the goaltender,” Sauer said. “I thought (Bruckler) played extremely well under maybe kind of a duress condition.”
The Badger netminder played extremely well all weekend despite not being warmed up before entering Friday’s game. Bruckler also was not able to take any extra ice time before Saturday’s game because of the Wisconsin men’s basketball game that was played at the Kohl Center Saturday.
Kabotoff’s status is questionable for next weekend’s series against Alaska-Anchorage.
“They are not going to do any MRI or any of that type of stuff so that means we can start right in on the bike,” Sauer said. “I would say he is very questionable for next weekend but hopefully back for [Colorado College].”
St. Cloud came out of the opening faceoff with plenty of fire, controlling the action for the game’s initial shifts. The Badgers, though, quashed St. Cloud’s adrenaline and took control with the game’s opening goal at 4:21 in the first. Wisconsin took a 1-0 lead when senior winger David Hukalo pounced on a loose puck in the circle, skated in on Dean Weasler and found Murray just above the crease for his seventh goal of the season.
St. Cloud generated few good scoring chances, but when they did they made them count. Bruckler, however, was true to the challenge.
Late in the first period, Huskies junior center Mark Hartigan fired a one-timer from the high slot, but Bruckler made a terrific glove save to preserve the 1-0 lead. The shot was so hard that it actually bruised the Wisconsin goaltender, who had ice on his hand during the post-game press conference.
“Actually [the ice] is [from that shot],” Bruckler said. “He hit me on the inside of the palm and he got my finger a little bit. It is a little blue, but it will be all right.”
Sauer said, “That was a world-class save right there.”
The Badgers successfully contained Hartigan, who entered the series with 49 points but came away with only one during the weekend set in Madison, a goal Friday night. St. Cloud’s power play was completely held in check, going 0-for-9 on the weekend.
“We wanted to take away Hartigan all weekend,” Murray said. “We were real disciplined. We stood in his face. Our ‘D’ did a great job clearing out guys when shots did come through.”
Wisconsin’s Kent Davyduke gave the Badgers a two-goal advantage at 2:16 in the second when he skated just within the blue line and fired a slapshot over Weasler’s shoulder.
St. Cloud made it 2-1 at 10:04 in the second period when sophomore defenseman Jeff Finger fluttered a wrist shot toward the net that deflected off a Badger forward in the slot, found its way through a series of screens, and trickled passed Bruckler.
Matt Doman gave the Badgers another two-goal lead with a quick wrist shot that fooled Weasler. The play began with a turnover in the Huskies’ zone when sophomore defenseman Colin Peters attempted a breakout pass that Doman intercepted just inside blue line. Doman skated into the circle and fired a wrist shot to the far side that went in just within the pipe.
Just 11 seconds after Doman’s goal, St. Cloud’s Matt Hendricks crashed the net and bumped Bruckler as the Wisconsin netminder was covering the puck. The Badgers took offense to Hendricks’ action and a brouhaha broke out that resulted in 26 minutes of penalties to six players. While the other five players involved were given double minors for roughing, Doman received a double minor and an additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Badger penalty killers dismantled the ensuing power play, however, to maintain their 3-1 lead.
“We couldn’t score to save our soul all weekend,” Dahl said.
Wisconsin’s Murray tallied his third goal of the weekend when he took a faceoff from the top of the circle in the Badger end and found an empty net to close out the scoring.
“I can’t say I’ve seen one go directly like that,” Sauer said. “I guess that is a pretty good birthday present.”
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