MANKATO, Minn. — Wisconsin got a little luck to take a 3-2 lead in the third. But a little bad luck for UW gave Minnesota State the equalizer as the teams skated to a tie.
At 4:10 of the third period, Wisconsin’s Adam Burish took a seemingly harmless shot on net from just inside the blue line. Mavericks netminder Kyle Nixon stuck his stick out to block the shot, but his stick deflected the puck behind him and into the net.
“I just wanted to get it on net. That’s all I really wanted to do,” Burish said.
“We always talk about putting the puck on net, and you never know what’s going to happen,” said UW associate coach Troy Ward, acting as the head coach while Mike Eaves remains with the World Junior Team in Finland, whey it is a perfect 4-0.
“Every once in awhile those are going to get by,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said. “I was pleased he didn’t let it get him down. He kept playing hard and made a couple of saves after that that kept us in the game.”
But the Mavericks (4-11-4, 3-7-3 WCHA) got a lucky break of their own.
With 11:31 remaining in the game, freshman Kyle Peto took a shot from the right side of the UW net. Badger goalie Bernd Bruckler made the save, but the rebound bounced off of Wisconsin’s Robbie Earl and into the net. The goal was Peto’s first of his career.
“I’ll take it. … A little bit lucky, but they all count,” Peto said.
After the beginning they had, the Mavericks were fortunate to have a chance to contend with Wisconsin, as the No. 3 Badgers (12-4-5, 6-2-5) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in just over five minutes of action.
Defenseman Andy Wozniewski got things started on the power play as his shot from the blue line hit the post and went in at 4:49.
Senior defenseman Dan Boeser struck only 22 seconds later as he collected the puck on the left side and made a hard angle shot over a sprawled Nixon.
Nixon, a sophomore, was able to settle down from there and stopped two Badger shots on a five-on-three later in the period.
The Mavericks also settled down and came back to tie the game in the first.
“After the first five minutes tonight, I was pleased with our team’s effort,” Jutting said.
The Mavericks answered with a power-play goal of their own at 8:23 of the first. Freshman David Backes stuffed the puck past Bruckler for his ninth of the year. Before Backes’ tally, the Badgers had allowed only one goal on their last 50 penalty kills. Both teams finished 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
MSU captain Shane Joseph scored the equalizer with a highlight-reel goal to close out the scoring in the first.
The senior received the puck just outside UW’s blue line, danced around Wisconsin’s Matt Olinger and Andrew Joudrey, and finally deked Bruckler to the ice. Joseph then put the puck into the right side of the net for his team-leading 11th goal of the season.
“I pulled my jersey over my head. I was just in disbelief that he did something so sick like that,” Peto said.
“That’s as nice of a play as you’re going to see by a player at any level,” Jutting said of Joseph’s goal.
When Jutting was asked what was going through his mind when Joseph made the play, Jutting said, “I’m glad I’m coaching him. Glad he’s on my team and not theirs.”
Nixon was solid in the second period. The Maverick netminders robbed John Eichelberger and Burish on chances at the right side of the net in the opening minutes of the second.
Later in the period, Nixon made a sliding save to stop Joudrey’s power play chance.
Bruckler was equally good at the other side of the net. After UW’s Tom Sawatske was kicked out of the game for leaving the bench to join a melee at 7:17 of the period, MSU had a chance to take the lead with a five minute power play.
But the best chance the Mavericks could muster on the power play was stopped as Bruckler denied Travis Morin and Cole Bassett’s rebound attempt.
MSU had a chance in overtime, but Rob Rankin’s slap shot hit the crossbar and bounced away at 2:16 of the extra session. Backes and Joseph also had chances in overtime, but Bruckler denied them of winning the game.
“For the people who had to listen or weren’t here, that was as up-and-down, race-horse hockey as you’re going to find in college hockey at times,” Ward said. “It was an entertaining game.”
Ward was filling in for head coach Mike Eaves, who was at the World Junior Tournament with three Badger regulars.
“Any time you can go on the road in this league and get a point, I think that’s good,” Ward said. “Maybe where we’re at — minus a few players — we can say that’s great. But at the same time we had a couple leads tonight and we let those slip away.”
Jutting was happy that his team was able to compete with the third-ranked Badgers.
“I thought it was a good team effort. Obviously you want to win the hockey game. But if you can’t win, we got the point. Tomorrow night, we’ll see what happens,” Jutting said.
“In the locker room, we’re not happy with a tie tonight,” UW’s Burish said. “We want to come in here and take four points. That was our goal this weekend. We got one tonight, and we expect to get two tomorrow. We won’t be happy with ourselves unless we get two.”
The two teams will fight for those two points tomorrow night as the series concludes. Game time is set for 7:35 p.m. (CT).