MADISON, Wisc. — Wisconsin faced a moment of truth in its 4-1 loss to No. 8 Michigan Friday night. In a game that saw the Badgers (5-8-0, 1-5-0 WCHA) and Wolverines (11-2-1, 6-1-1 CCHA) rack up 22 penalties and only 40 shots on goal, Michigan yielded the first goal but answered with four straight goals that easily gave them the win.
Wisconsin started the scoring with a goal from senior defender Mark Jackson that escaped the glove of freshman goaltender Al Montoya less than nine minutes into the game. But the Badgers lost their one-point lead when Wolverine sophomore defender Eric Werner scored Michigan’s first goal of the night, a shorthanded goal shot from the dot that got past sophomore goaltender Bernd Bruckler’s right side. The game remained notched at one goal apiece and the teams were evenly matched throughout the first period.
However, a Michigan goal in the last second of the first period sent Wisconsin into a violent tailspin for the rest of the game.
With just four seconds left in the first period, Wisconsin junior defender Jon Krall received a minor penalty for roughing after the whistle was blown, giving Michigan the upper hand. Michigan used its power play to its advantage three seconds later, as sophomore right wing Milan Gajic sent the puck to senior center John Shouneyia, who lifted it over Bruckler’s shoulder. Michigan left the ice at the end of the first period with control of the game and didn’t look back.
“[The goal] gave us a boost and put us in the lead after the first period and it puts the other team a bit on their heels because they were tied and now, two seconds later, they’re behind going into the second period,” Michigan Head Coach Red Berenson said. “That was important for both teams.”
Although Shouneyia’s game-winning goal gave the Wolverines the clear advantage heading into the second period, Berenson said the third and fourth goals, scored by freshman left wing Jeff Tambellini and sophomore center David Moss, respectively, were the turning points for the Wolverines.
“I think the third goal was a huge goal and the fourth goal that really puts some separation between the teams,” Berenson said.
For Wisconsin, Michigan’s goals in the first period represented what head coach Mike Eaves stressed as a “moment of truth” for his young team. The Badgers’ inability to respond to Michigan’s quick goal at the end of the first period plagued them for the rest of the game, as they only had 20 total shots on goal and went 0-for-9 on the power play, five of which occurred in the third period.
“From a system-wise standpoint, from our forecheck to power play, penalty kill, we were in the right spots at the right times,” Eaves said. “We didn’t execute when we got there. We were there but we didn’t take what was given, which is part of being a good power-play unit. We were right there in position to forecheck and get the job done there. So, in all those moments of truth that happened during the game, we didn’t get the job done.”
Senior left wing Brad Winchester cited Wisconsin’s difficulty in getting decent shots on goal during the power play as one area in which the team struggled.
“The way that Michigan set up their penalty kill and the way that they pressured the puck on the strong side, they’re extremely frustrating to get a series of passes and a good shot with traffic in front,” he said. “It was nonexistent at times tonight and it’s extremely frustrating when it’s a time that guys need to step up and make a difference.
“We can’t put series of passes together to make good plays and if you go 0-for-9 on the power play, you’re not going to win the game.”
Neither team capitalized on power play opportunities, as Shouneyia’s goal was the only power play goal scored throughout the night. Wisconsin produced only eight shots on nine power plays and Michigan only had five shots on five power plays.
“We’ve got a lot of guys killing penalties now but there’s just too many penalties; we felt like we were shorthanded the whole third period, so we’ve got to eliminate the bad penalties,” Berenson said. “You can’t kill that many penalties in a game and win very often.”
According to Eaves, Wisconsin’s incapability to pressure Michigan and find holes in key moments hindered its scoring ability.
“Early in the first period, they pressure you and if you’re not ready for that pressure, you can get caught,” Eaves said. “But when you’ve got some excellent scoring opportunities because of the pressure, you see the holes. If you don’t handle that pressure, it looks like you don’t get much done.”