MADISON, Wis. — There had never been a hat trick at the Kohl Center in Madison. In fact, the last time a Badger scored three goals in one game was nearly four years ago, by one Dany Heatley.
But rookie Robbie Earl etched his name in the history books Friday night, completing a hat trick to cap a late comeback and knock off top-ranked North Dakota 4-3 in overtime.
“I played emotional. The first period was rough and I needed to respond and get the team fired up,” Earl said. “I think that my emotion led to opportunities for me and my line, and fortunately I got some big goals.”
“He’s one of those players that is offensively gifted, high-risk and high-reward. We kind of put up with some turnovers, but he came up big tonight,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said.
Down 3-0 after the first period and 3-1 with just eight minutes to go in the game, things were looking bleak for Wisconsin, but a shorthanded goal after a miscue by Sioux goalie Jake Brandt and Earl’s second goal of the night with one minute to play in the game kept the Badgers’ hopes alive.
With 13,000 fans on their feet for the last 10 minutes, Earl completed the hat trick in dramatic fashion. Fellow freshman Jake Dowell left a drop pass which Earl picked up, and while falling to the ice, got under the puck to put it over Brandt’s shoulder.
“They made a good play coming down on the two-on-two and looked like it was harmless. But they caught a defenseman cross-legged and he made a good shot on Jake in the upper corner. Helluva goal,” Sioux coach Dean Blais said.
North Dakota did everything it needed to for 50 minutes.
The Sioux scored three first-period goals, taking the crowd out of the majority of the game.
They played sound defense, took a two-goal lead into the final period and held that lead deep into the third.
But they did not slam the door, allowing the Badgers to shift the momentum and take the two WCHA points.
The first period was all North Dakota. A Wisconsin penalty just 34 seconds into the game gave UND the man-advantage and a one-goal lead less than two minutes in.
The Sioux made it 2-0 seven minutes later on their second redirected goal of the period, this time by Chris Porter.
Then they capped off the period when Zach Parise nabbed the puck in the neutral zone and skated in two-on-one. He shot and hit forward Andy Brandt, who was streaking back, and the puck went in.
But the three goals were not going to be enough.
Wisconsin went into the locker room after one of its worst periods all year. There was a noticeable change to the Badger demeanor after the intermission, and they used that to sneak back in the game.
“The turning point in this game was the response that this team had at the beginning of the second period,” Eaves said.
Earl got his first of the evening in the second period. He grabbed the puck in the slot, spun around, and backhanded it by a sprawling Brandt.
Midway through the final period, the Sioux looked to add to the lead. This time Brandon Bochenski redirected the puck past Bruckler, but, with shades of Minnesota two weeks ago, the goal was waved off because Bochenski played the puck with a high stick.
Three and a half minutes later Wisconsin got within one with a shorthanded goal. Joudrey skated into the zone and Brandt came out of the net to meet him. Joudrey blasted the puck off Brandt’s shoulder, cutting the deficit to one.
“That turns the table. It’s 3-1 and we give them a shorthanded goal when the goaltender should’ve stayed in the net,” Blais said. “From that point on it just kind of fell apart.”
With 61 seconds left in the game, Earl got his second of the night, knotting the game at three. Badger Ross Carlson hit the ice and kept the puck in the Wisconsin zone. Dowell fired a shot at Brandt, who made the save but left a costly rebound for Earl to capitalize on.
His goal at 1:53 of overtime was set up by Dowell and Carlson again, and finalized the Badgers’ best comeback to date.
“When I show up, I can be a positive force on this team. And when I don’t I’m just another player in the WCHA. So, I need to turn it around, maybe come out every night and play,” Earl said.
After a heart-to-heart chat with Eaves earlier in the week, Earl, not considered one of the team’s leaders, turned things around.
“He just said that I can be a great player if I want to be. When you want to be the best, you can be,” Earl said.
The win kept Wisconsin in a tie for third with St. Cloud State, four points behind North Dakota, which saw its WCHA lead dwindle to one point.
“When you get 3-1 you should win those games,” Blais said.
“When we get down, this group continues to plug away,” Eaves said.
The two teams come back Saturday for what should be another thriller. It was announced Friday afternoon that Saturday night’s game is sold out, the first time in Kohl Center history that a hockey game has been sold out prior to walk-up sales.