MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves has been searching for that line since the start of the season — that one line that goes out and plays with intensity that sets fire to the whole team.
Saturday, he found that line and it came up big.
Rene Bourque, Ryan MacMurchy and Andrew Joudrey accounted for all four Badger goals in a 4-1 victory, completing a series sweep of Quinnipiac. Bourque and MacMurchy, the team’s top two scorers last year, came together with the standout freshman to produce a line that was seemingly unstoppable.
“They carried a great part of the game,” Eaves said. “They worked hard and made the plays that they needed to. By doing what they did I think it was infectious to our group.”
From minute one it was obvious that, once again, the Bobcat goalie would be the key to keeping the game close. Junior Jamie Holden did his job in the first period by stopping 21 Badger shots.
Freshman Brian Elliott started in net for the Badgers and made his first collegiate save six minutes in, one of only three shots that he had to stop in the first period.
It was only a matter of time before the Badger scoring line got things rolling. MacMurchy skated the puck into the zone and found a way by a double-team, getting the puck to Bourque, who fired it over Holden’s glove. That gave the Badgers a 1-0 lead, something that they hadn’t yet done this year.
It took Quinnipiac more than seven minutes to put a shot on net in the second, but eventually the Bobcats tied it up. Forward Ryan Morton got the puck to Matt Craig, who burned the defense and skated in on Elliott. After faking once, he squeezed a backhand shot through Elliott’s legs to knot the game at one.
Quinnipiac stayed patient all weekend. The Bobcats didn’t get many chances, but when they did they took advantage.
“The one thing that you can say about that team is that they really compete,” Eaves said. “They did not quit. They are a competitive group and that is why they are successful in their league.”
However, only three minutes later the power line struck again. Bourque and Dan Boeser got the puck to MacMurchy, who did most of the work himself, faking a centering pass which turned the defenders around, leaving him open. He took advantage, firing a wrister past Holden and giving Wisconsin the lead once again.
The second period was penalty-free until the 20th minute. After the buzzer sounded multiple players from each team went at it. This wouldn’t be the last time that the referees had to break things up, as they handed out roughing minors to two players from each squad.
It took a mere 28 seconds for the Badgers’ first line to put up an insurance goal in the third. This time it was Joudrey who took a pass from MacMurchy and angled the puck in off Holden’s stick.
“I just think we had a mindset coming into the game,” Joudrey said. “We felt pretty confident out there. We knew we could overpower them and win every shift.
Aggressive play continued for the next 12 minutes when Badger freshman Ryan Suter took a five-minute major for slashing at the neck of a Bobcat defenseman. Suter, preseason WCHA rookie of the year and seventh overall pick in this year’s NHL draft, was whistled all weekend, tallying 13 minutes of penalties in the two contests.
Minutes later, roughing minors were dealt after Wisconsin tri-captain Andy Wozniewski got into it with Bobcat Matt Froehlich. Not to be outdone, Suter took a penalty of the same kind just two minutes later. However, Quinnipiac forward Tim Morrison got the best of Suter, grabbing his facemask for a five-minute penalty.
“Ryan is going to get picked on all year,” Eaves said. “He has to learn to take people’s numbers and wait for a time and chance when the play is going on.”
Wisconsin’s prolific line was not done, taking advantage of four-on-four play. With just over a minute to play MacMurchy grabbed the loose puck at center ice and skated in all alone. After faking Holden to the right, he went with his backhand for his fourth point of the night.
“I feel better knowing that I’m contributing points and scoring for team because otherwise I don’t feel like I’m doing my job,” MacMurchy said.
After one more scuffle the buzzer sounded. The Badgers avenged last weekend’s sweep by posting one of their own, controlling play all weekend to bring their record back up to .500.
“I just think they outplayed us,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “They were hungry and at home. They were excited and they deserved to win the game.”
Bourque and MacMurchy, who entered the weekend scoreless, each walked away with two goals and two assists in the series. Boeser, a tri-captain, came through with three assists.
“We definitely have a lot of things to work on as a young team but we just have to keep working and keep getting better,” MacMurchy said. “All the guys have great attitudes and I’m excited about where this team is going.”
The goalies highlighted the weekend for the Bobcats. Holden matched senior Justin Eddy’s performance Friday night with 46 saves of his own.
Unfortunately for them, their efforts were not enough as the Badgers found a way to score — six times on 97 shots, a performance that Quinnipiac could not match as the Bobcats mounted 37 shots on the weekend.