MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin played catch up for much of three periods, but took the lead when it mattered most in a 4-3 win over the No. 14 Huskies of St. Cloud State.
Rene Bourque, the Badgers’ leader in goals, received player of the game honors for his game-winning goal with 56 seconds left in regulation. Just as fans were getting dj vu in regards to last night’s deadlock, Bourque took advantage of a breakaway to tally the final goal of the evening.
“It’s a great feeling, it’s gonna help out the team,” Bourque said. “Everyone is on this big high right now so it brings our team closer together.”
SCSU forward Matt Hendricks led all players with two goals, both of which were assisted by center Peter Szabo. Bourque collected two goals on the weekend.
Whereas the Badgers (11-19-4, 5-15-4 WCHA) are notorious for deflating when trailing, they managed to match every threat the talented Huskies sent their way. Having been thoroughly humiliated seven days ago in an 8-1 loss to No. 6 Minnesota, the Badgers played like they had something to prove to their conference superiors.
“We decided we wanted to have a lot of energy tonight, something we didn’t really have last weekend,” Badger forward Joe Simon said. “Everyone brought it tonight and we got the job done.”
St. Cloud goalie Jake Moreland registered 19 saves on the night, but was once again outdone by touted Badger netminder Bernd Bruckler. Bruckler made 20 saves in his second back-to-back series of the year and has not lost a game in Madison since December 7th. The Badger defense provided much help to their goaltender and allowed the Huskies few rebounds.
“[Bruckler] went back-to-back in a pressure situation and rose to the occasion,” said Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves.
In contrast to last night’s uneventful first period, the two WCHA rivals traded goals in the first three minutes. Exactly 30 seconds after Hendricks put St. Cloud (16-8-8, 10-10-4 WCHA) on the scoreboard, Wisconsin’s Erik Jensen evened the contest.
The second period turned into a war of attrition, with neither team giving way on the defensive end. Offense took control toward the end of the set, however, with three goals coming in two and a half minutes.
Husky captain Jon Cullen, after putting up no shots on goal the night before, split the Badger defense en route to his 11th goal of the season at 3:29 of the period. Once again though, Wisconsin would not allow St. Cloud time to celebrate and tied the game on a goal by Joe Simon 34 seconds later.
Matt Hendricks would continue the scoring frenzy and notch his second goal of the game at 1:06 of the period, sending the Huskies into the intermission with a 3-2 lead.
“The turning point was at the end of the second period,” Eaves said. “Right before we went out I put the onus on the upperclassmen and said ‘Fellas, this is the time we need you to step up.’”
The Badgers came out of the tunnel for the third period and did not let two minutes pass before tying the game for the third time, courtesy of a score from senior defender Brian Fahey. The Badgers have not come back after trailing at the second intermission all season, but Bourque’s breakaway goal would bring an end to that.
Having pulled their goaltender, the Huskies put forth their most determined effort of the night as the final moments ticked down. St. Cloud was able to recover the puck after a number of stops by Bruckler, but saw a one-timer succeed an instant after time expired.
The St. Cloud attack was once again hamstrung by the absence of star forward Ryan Malone, who is still recovering from a dislocated kneecap. Badger assist leader Alex Leavitt was missing from his team’s lineup, though he is set to practice this week.
“They’re missing a couple key people and that’s a factor,” Eaves said. “When you miss a player like [Malone] it changes your chemistry. … I think when they’re healthy they’re one of the best teams in the WCHA.”
The first goal of the game came at 18:04 of the first. Bruckler was caught out of position after defending a shot from Szabo, allowing Matt Hendricks to crash the net and drive in the puck for the first score.
Before congratulations were finished, though, Erik Jensen tallied Wisconsin’s first score. Pete Talafous navigated his way through the Husky defense before managing an awkward shot. As Moreland went to cover the puck, Jensen intercepted it and dumped it into the net to tie the game 1-1.
Jon Cullen regained the Huskies the lead at 3:29 of the second. Cullen received a pass from Joe Motzko, sped between two Badger defenders and wristed a shot into the net.
The Badgers would stay true to form and even the score at 2:55. After his linemates tried twice to grab a loose puck in front of the Husky goal, Wisconsin’s Joe Simon would come through with a backhander and float the puck over Moreland and into the net.
Less then two minutes later Hendricks struck again. Peter Szabo, behind the Badger net, let off a terrific pass that Hendricks collected in front of the net and sent top shelf.
A snapshot from Brian Fahey would even the score at 18:11 of the third and Bourque’s last-minute wrister would put the Badgers on top for good.
This weekend puts St. Cloud three points out of home-ice advantage in the upcoming WCHA playoffs. The Huskies will attempt to regain lost ground next weekend when they face off against conference basement dweller Alaska-Anchorage.
The Badgers hit the road next weekend to play Michigan Tech in a series that will go a long way towards deciding the eighth seed in the WCHA. Wisconsin currently lies only one point behind the Huskies.