MADISON, Wis. — Saturday night, the Wisconsin Badgers took four points from Minnesota State, extending their unbeaten streak to a school record-tying 14 games with a 3-2 win. That result followed the completion of Friday night’s suspended game, a 4-1 Badger victory.
Despite the unusual circumstances, it was the same old story for Badger goalie Bernd Bruckler, who backstopped his team to victory. Bruckler made 55 saves on the weekend, including 34 in the second game.
He and his defensemen did not allow a power-play goal, despite giving the Mavericks 14 chances over the weekend.
“I thought he played great,” Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting said. “A lot of penalty killing and a lot of success on the power play is about the job the goaltender does.”
The first period of the scheduled game started off slow and ended scoreless, as the Badgers mounted just four shots on goal in the first.
“We didn’t have a lot going, and without Bernd in the net backboning it could have gotten ugly,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “He was good and allowed us to stay around.”
Minnesota State, on the other hand, came out energized. Although the Mavericks were unable to score on Bruckler, they made him work, firing 14 shots on net. The junior goalie was ready. Despite giving up two late goals, it was his effort that decided the outcome.
“I was ready to go and I needed to be there,” Bruckler said. “We found a way to get it done.”
The Mavericks maintained their offense in the second period, but it was the Badgers who took the lead. Wisconsin was outshot again, but tallied twice in the period.
The first goal came 11 minutes into the period on a power play. Freshman Ryan Suter took a pass from Rene Bourque and shot from the point. Goaltender Jon Volp was heavily screened and did not see the puck until it was too late. It was the WCHA preseason Rookie of the Year’s first career goal.
It did not take long for the Badgers to strike again. Two minutes later John Eichelberger took control of the loose puck in the Wisconsin zone. Although he had an open shot at the net, he passed the puck to Andy Wozniewski, who fired it over the right shoulder of Volp.
“[Eichelberger] is a pretty good hockey player, but he seemed to take it to another level tonight,” Eaves said. “And at those moments of truth when he had to make a play, the pass was made and good things happened.”
Meanwhile, on the other end, Bruckler continued to be solid, stopping everything that came his way.
As expected, the emotions of Friday night carried over. The game was marred by penalties including a number of roughing calls, but the game did not get out of hand. The teams combined for 96 minutes in penalties in the two games.
“It was just a team that hasn’t won in a while for Mankato. They wanted to win,” Suter said. “It was just two hard teams going at it.”
The third period was physical and emotional. Minnesota State rallied, but Bruckler and the Badgers closed the door.
The lead was cut in half less than six minutes into the period during four-on-four play. Minnesota State forward Brock Becker got his first goal of the season when he took a pass from Nate Metcalf and scored past Bruckler’s glove.
However, the Badgers countered less than a minute later due to another excellent pass from Eichelberger. This time he centered the puck to Rene Bourque, who blasted it under the leg of Volp.
“[Eichelberger] made two unbelievable passes tonight,” Bourque said. “He just beat his defenseman and made a really nice pass and then I had an open net.”
Minnesota State got another goal when they pulled Volp late in the period. With less than one minute to go, freshman David Backes got the puck past Bruckler, but it was too little, too late. Wisconsin took the game, 3-2, and four key WCHA points.
Of course, Saturday night’s game could not be started until Friday’s was finished. The teams warmed up and then played out the last five minutes of game one.
Down 3-1 to begin the evening, Minnesota State pulled Volp with less than a minute to go. A penalty by Badger freshman Mark Heatley gave the Mavericks a six-on-four advantage, but with 18 seconds left, Adam Burish slapped the puck into the empty net, putting the final nail in the coffin and getting Wisconsin its first two points of the evening.
“I thought both teams played hard,” Jutting said. “I am proud of our kids for the effort they gave.”
The Badgers continue to ride the nation’s longest unbeaten streak, but are not yet satisfied. The team’s motto has become “Not Good Enough.”
“Everybody wants to be first on this team. We are not happy with second, we are not happy with fifth, we are only happy with first,” Bruckler said. “And that’s why we’ve managed to get together this run.”
They will have to wait a week until their next chance, as they have next weekend off before the Badger Showcase. The Mavericks will look to turn things around next weekend at home against Denver.