MADISON, Wis. — Denver completed a weekend sweep of Wisconsin with a 5-3 victory Saturday night at the Kohl Center.
The Pioneers (7-1-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) followed a close Friday night victory with a strong outing that saw three lead changes throughout the game.
Pioneer Greg Barber led all players with two goals. DU’s Kevin Doell and Matt Weber, along with Wisconsin’s Rene Bourque, picked up a goal and an assist.
Barber and fellow senior Aaron MacKenzie, as well as Badger freshman Ryan MacMurchy, finished the weekend with two goals.
“Both games were very tight going down the stretch and Wisconsin competed hard,” said Denver head coach George Gwozdecky. “They didn’t shoot themselves in the foot.”
Denver jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first before allowing three unanswered goals from Wisconsin (4-4-0, 0-2-0 WCHA). The Pioneers proceeded to make up for their scoreless second period with three unanswered goals of their own in the final 20 minutes.
“We made it uncomfortable for them [Denver] out there,” said Wisconsin Head Coach Mike Eaves. “It was a battle for them and they realize that.”
The power-play units for both teams had impressive showings: Denver’s first three goals came on the man advantage.
The Pioneers, ranked No. 2 in the nation, put Wisconsin goalie Bernd Bruckler under an offensive assault. Denver outshot the Badgers 38-15, a differential that can be largely attributed to the defense, which broke up a plethora of UW passes.
“We played the kind of game we wanted to play, that we needed to play,” said Gwozdecky.
The first period saw Wisconsin commit two penalties and Denver make the Badgers pay for both.
Denver showcased its ferocious power play capabilities after Badger freshman Nick Licari was called for crosschecking. Denver’s Luke Fulgham scored a goal that caused quite the predicament on the ice.
Fulgham accepted a pass from teammate Jeff Drummond and slapped it at Bruckler. The light flashed behind the net, but play continued as the Badgers mistook the puck in their crease as never having crossed the line.
Play stopped for roughly five minutes while the referees sorted the situation out. It was determined that the puck bounced off the inside of the net, therefore crossing the line.
“It hit my pad and the next thing I heard was Denver guys cheering for a goal and then Tom Gilbert clears it,” said Bruckler. “I have no idea what happened there.”
After UW’s Mark Jackson drew a holding penalty at 5:41 of the first, Denver extended the lead to 2-0 in a way that left no room for controversy.
Not one minute into the power play, Doell set up Barber on the left side of the net, resulting in a speedy shot that beat Bruckler to the top shelf.
Though seeming overwhelmed by the Pioneer defense for much of the first, Wisconsin did not allow themselves to be blanked.
Badger senior Rene Bourque intercepted the puck in the neutral zone and sent a long-range slap shot at Denver goalie Adam Berkhoel. The shot deflected off Berkhoel’s stick, went over his head and bounced into the net to narrow the Wisconsin deficit to one goal.
Even without leading scorer Brad Winchester, who left the game with a hurt finger before returning in the third, the Badgers looked like a new team in the second period, scoring two goals and dominating the time of possession.
Unable to generate any offense on their first power play of the period, the Badgers turned things around on their second chance when Denver’s Lukas Dora was penalized for boarding.
Mark Jackson sent a turnaround shot from the boards that struck the crossbar and dropped in front of Berkhoel. The netminder was unable to locate the puck until a speeding Ryan MacMurchy moved in and tipped it into the net, tying the game 2-2.
At 3:36 of the second period the Badgers scored their third straight goal in a row, grabbing their first lead of the game.
It came when Berkhoel, after blocking a shot from Wisconsin’s Jake Heisler, inadvertently poke-checked the puck to A.J. Degenhardt, setting him up with a wrist shot from the left side that raced into the net.
Though Wisconsin owned the second period, the third clearly belonged to Denver.
Berkhoel, after registering five saves and three goals against, was replaced by touted Pioneer goalie Wade Dubielewicz, who shut out the Badgers for the final 20 minutes.
At 13:15 of the third Denver tied the game. Doell, partly as a result of a power play, was able to get open on the far side of the faceoff circle and receive a pass from Ryan Caldwell. Doell’s slapshot found its mark and stole momentum from the Badgers.
“I thought the depth and the speed of some of those guys up front really was telling in the end,” said Gwozdecky. “It allowed us not only to get possession of the puck in the offensive zone but maintain possession and create some scoring opportunities.”
Less than three minutes later the Pioneers produced the final lead change of the game. Barber deflected a pass that came across the middle, catching Bruckler off-guard, for the game-winning goal.
“I’m disappointed about the third period myself — you gotta put the game away,” said Bruckler. “I felt like I could have done better in the third.”
The Badgers pulled their goalie and took the man-advantage in the final minute only to see their rally attempt come to nothing. A huge glove deflection by Dubielewicz in the final 10 seconds sent the puck to Matt Weber, who skated to center ice before notching an empty-net goal.
“Wade Dubielewicz made a hell of a save,” said Gwozdecky. “I think that if Wisconsin puts themselves in a position to make that play again, the puck probably goes in against another goaltender.”
Denver returns home next weekend for a league series with Minnesota-Duluth. The Badgers have a week off before they take to the road for their next game, also against UMD.