BOSTON — As role reversals go, it was about as complete as one could imagine.
On Friday night, Wisconsin fell victim to Boston College’s first-period barrage in which it put the game away by seizing a 4-0 lead. One night later, the Badgers returned the favor at Northeastern’s expense, grabbing an identically dominant advantage in the opening 20 minutes and then riding it to a 5-1 win.
BC had temporarily chased starting goaltender Scott Kabotoff; Wisconsin did likewise to NU netminder Mike Gilhooly.
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves attributed some of the Badgers’ poor start against BC to it being their first game on an NHL-size ice surface. At Northeastern’s Matthews Arena, they felt more at home.
“Tonight we looked more comfortable right from the get-go,” said Eaves. “I truly think that [our loss to BC] was due to the fact that we played a very good team on the size rink that we weren’t used to. The combination had our head spinning.
“Tonight there’s a little more space and this game probably seemed slower to our kids because we went to a bigger surface.”
Special teams also provided a dramatic lift as Wisconsin scored on all three of its power plays and blanked Northeastern, 0-for-4.
“Sometimes the puck goes in and sometimes it doesn’t,” said Eaves. “The main thing you want to be [concerned with] is are you getting chances and tonight we got chances and put it away.”
The schizophrenic weekend wasn’t limited to just the Badgers. Northeastern similarly experienced giddy heights and ugly lows, but with the order reversed. The Huskies tied top-ranked New Hampshire on Friday, 2-2, only to stumble badly a day later.
“We didn’t come out and play,” said NU coach Bruce Crowder. “Part of that was us and part of it was Wisconsin. They lost last night. They were a little hungrier. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Everybody was patting us on the back about what happened last night. I think a lot of guys figured we’d just have to throw our skates on and we’d be talking about happy things after the game.
“You’ve got to come to play every night in college hockey because [if you don't] you’re going to get spanked and we definitely got spanked tonight.”
Pete Talafous got Wisconsin on the board at 6:28 with a terrific setup, swinging to the left post and then sliding a pass to Nick Licari on the far post that even your grandmother could have converted.
Five minutes later, Rene Bourque put away the rebound of a Tom Gilbert power-play shot for a 2-0 lead. Northeastern dodged a bullet when Brad Winchester rang a shot off the post, but caught the next cartridge between the eyes at 13:47. A.J. Degenhardt fed Joe Simon, who quickly roofed it for a 3-0 lead.
With the Huskies on the ropes, Wisconsin delivered the knockout punch just seven seconds into a second power play, deflecting a Tom Sawatske shot between Gilhooly’s wickets. The senior got the hook and the Huskies were all but finished.
Gilbert made it 5-0 at 7:38 of the second period, dropping down from the point on a third power play and putting his shot past substitute netminder Keni Gibson. The puck appeared to be over the line, but must have been just a micron or two short because neither the goal judge nor perfectly positioned referee Conrad Hache gave the signal. The puck remained there for what seemed like an eternity until Gibson inadvertently kicked it in.
Eric Ortlip broke Wisconsin goaltender Bernd Bruckler’s shutout attempt as part of a third period 18-4 Northeastern shot advantage, but the sophomore was otherwise perfect and the 5-1 margin stood until the final buzzer.