MADISON, Wis. — In what seems to be a recurring theme for the Wisconsin Badgers, on Friday they came out with little intensity and found themselves down two goals. But once again they rallied and escaped with a 2-2 tie.
Colorado College had outscored opponents 19-4 in the third period coming into this weekend, but Friday it was the Badgers who took over in the third.
“They came out and just stormed us. We hung on,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said. “I’m pleased with a point but disappointed that we didn’t win.”
Colorado College was playing with particulary heavy hearts, after finding out that assistant coach Norm Bazin was critically injured in an auto accident near Spokane, Wash., during a recruiting trip. He remains in a Washington hospital after multiple surgeries.
The Badgers mustered just nine shots in the first two periods, but came out fired up in the third, capitalizing twice on 13 chances.
“We have to figure this out for sure,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “Stats show that 68 percent of the time, the team that scores first wins. We’ve bucked that, but we can’t keep doing that.”
After an uneventful first period, Colorado College came out and took advantage of opportunities, walking off with a 2-0 lead.
Just under five minutes into the second period, the Tigers went on top when Mark Stuart put in his second goal of the season. The puck glided slowly across the offensive zone, somehow dodging a number of skates. Stuart saw the puck and put it home over the right pad of Bernd Bruckler.
Colorado College saw more opportunities, but could not convert again until late in the period. With a little more than two minutes left, the Tigers doubled their lead, taking advantage of a rebound.
Braydon Cox skated in one-on-one against Bruckler, who blocked the shot; but Aaron Slattengren was right there to put home the rebound, taking the Tigers into the locker room with a 2-0 advantage.
The Badgers had stressed all week the importance of getting shots on net and being there for the rebounds, yet they accumulated just nine shots through two periods and could not do anything with the rebounds. They had to come out with a different mentality if they were going to make anything happen in the third.
“We really seem to come out flat and we definitely have to figure it out,” Ryan MacMurchy said. “We have to find a way to come out when the score is even and we can really take it to teams.”
The Badgers found the intensity just in time. For the second Friday in a row, they fired themselves up in the locker room. Disappointed in their efforts, they were not going to go down without a fight.
They quickly swung the momentum. Just three minutes in, Ryan Suter flung the puck from the side of the net. Zaba misplayed it and let the rebound go straight out ahead of him and Robbie Earl was right there. He slammed the puck through Zaba’s legs, cutting the Tiger lead in half.
“Right away in the third period we were fired up and that first goal definitely sparked a new high for us,” Earl said.
It took less than two minutes to tie the game up as Wisconsin’s points leader added one more goal to his total. Andrew Joudrey found MacMurchy in the left circle. MacMurchy then ripped a shot over the glove of Zaba. The goalie, who was screened by a defender trying to get low and block the shot, never saw the puck until it zipped past him and into the net.
Wisconsin had taken the wind out of Colorado College’s sails and the Tigers spent the rest of the game trying to make sure they didn’t give the game away.
“They came at us with a vengeance,” Owens said. “They all stayed together and played with a lot more energy.”
The rest of regulation saw its opportunities, but neither team could capitalize. Wisconsin had the fans and momentum, but could not put home the kill shot. Despite a one-on-one breakaway and a one-timer in front of the net, the Badgers didn’t score and the game ended a 2-2 draw.
“We underachieved in the first two periods. But we’ve been in this situation before and we handled it well,” Bruckler said.
Again, Bruckler kept his team in the game and allowed them to come back. He made a myriad of quality saves and is now 4-0-2 in his last six starts.
Zaba remained untested through two periods and after struggling in the third, escaped with a tie and increased his record to 2-0-1. The Badgers did not get as much pressure as they would have liked.
“I thought he played real well,” Owens said. “This kid has given up five goals in three games on the road this year; not too bad for a freshman.”
The Badgers were outskated in the first two periods for the second week in a row, but their resiliency shined again.
“We are not satisfied with the point,” Eaves said. “We have to recognize that we can’t keep getting down two-nothing and expect to get points. That’s a rare thing that we’ve done the last three games.”
Colorado College skated with speed and intensity for two periods, but their momentum fizzled. Although unhappy about not being able to slam the door, they were relieved to hold on for the point.
CC will look to slam the door shut as the two teams come together again Saturday night. Wisconsin will try to extend its nation-leading unbeaten streak to eight.