GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Although Wisconsin made it interesting in the final minutes of its 3-2 loss to North Dakota Saturday, first-year coach Mike Eaves described his team’s effort as “embarrassing.”
“The last thing we want our players to do is walk out of here feeling good after that performance,” Eaves said after the Sioux outshot the Badgers 42-14. “Even if we would have tied or by some miracle won the game, there would have been huge repercussions for the embarrassing performance we had tonight.”
The Sioux led 1-0 at the end of the first period on a power-play goal by sophomore forward James Massen at 3:59. In the second period, North Dakota scored another power-play goal at 11:14 from senior forward Kevin Spiewak. Senior forward Jason Notermann, at 18:34 of the second period, scored the game winner.
At the beginning of the third, North Dakota led 3-0, had outshot Wisconsin 30-6, and appeared to be cruising to an easy victory. But defensive breakdowns enabled the Badgers to claw their way back into the game and cut what once seemed an insurmountable lead to one goal.
Sioux goalie Jake Brandt was denied a third consecutive shutout at 7:35 when Badger freshman defenseman Tom Gilbert picked up a rebound and fired it over the sprawling goaltender. At the 11:38 mark, the Badgers struck again when freshman wing Nick Licari shot the puck in over a prone Brandt.
North Dakota took a timeout to regroup and was helped by two Wisconsin penalties late in the game. Badger goalie Scott Kabotoff, who stopped 39 of 42 shots, was pulled with 47 seconds left, but Wisconsin was unable to generate any quality scoring opportunities.
Were the Badgers that bad or were the Sioux that good? It depends on which coach you ask.
North Dakota coach Dean Blais attributed Sioux dominance of the shot clock to his team’s defensive corps of David Hale, Andy Schneider, Matt Jones, Matt Greene, Chris Leinweber and Nick Fuher.
“The defensemen are holding the red line more like it’s the blue line,” he said. “I think it’s demoralizing for the other team to constantly get knocked around and not gain the zone to even shoot the puck in. That gets intimidating to play against.”
One-goal wins are becoming a habit for the Fighting Sioux, who have won three of their last five games by that margin. While the team’s scoring has dropped off recently, Notermann believe there’s no reason to panic.
“We’re going to start capitalizing on our chances and I think as the season goes on, we’re going to start scoring five or six goals rather than two or three,” he said. “We just need to work through it. We have a lot of guys who can shoot the puck and score goals. It’s just going to be a matter of time.’
North Dakota, which plays Minnesota State at home next weekend, improves to 11-1-0, 5-1-0 WCHA, and remains undefeated at Engelstad Arena this season. Wisconsin falls to 5-7-0 overall, 1-5-0 WCHA. The Badgers are at home next weekend where they will play Michigan and Michigan State in the College Hockey Showcase.