MADISON, Wis. — No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 8 St. Cloud State came into Friday night’s contest tied for third place in the WCHA. And after 65 minutes of tough, competitive hockey the teams remained tied — both in the game and the league.
“It was a ferocious game, a real good battle by both teams,” St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl said.
“That’s the kind of hockey you are going to get. It’s tough to score goals at this time of the year,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said.
The 1-1 score does not do justice to the battle. Though there was no score through two periods, the game was characterized by high-paced, back-and-forth action.
“It was a hotly contested game. Both teams really played hard,” Dahl said.
The action began early in the first period. St. Cloud State had its first opportunity just 38 seconds in, and both teams had plenty of chances throughout.
Wisconsin could not take advantage of the only two power plays in the first, and the period ended with no advantage to either team — but the second period was completely different. Wisconsin dominated, outshooting St. Cloud 14-2.
Freshman goalie Tim Boron played well in net for St. Cloud and especially in the second at a less than friendly arena for a rookie.
“I don’t really pay attention to any atmosphere,” Boron said. “It was a pretty intense game, but I felt comfortable in there.”
Most notable was his save midway through the period when he stopped a Rene Bourque slapshot, and then made a brilliant play to stop Andrew Joudrey’s rebound effort.
Nonetheless, the Badgers could not get the puck in the net, leaving the result to the final period. And after a lackluster second period on offense, the Huskies came out firing.
“We didn’t play well in the second,” Dahl said. “But we rallied up the troops real well in the third.”
Two minutes in their aggressiveness paid off as Matt Hendricks gave St. Cloud the 1-0 lead. The Huskies forced a Badger turnover in the neutral zone and skated in three-on-one, a disadvantage that goalie Bernd Bruckler could not fend off.
Dave Iannazzo got the puck to Hendricks, who fired it against the grain, past the left side of Bruckler for his 12th goal of the season.
“That really hurt us in the third. We coughed the puck up and that’s what resulted in the three-on-one,” Eaves said.
St. Cloud avoided a costly goal with more than 11 minutes to play. Wisconsin forward Robbie Earl tried a shot from the blue line and Boron thought he had caught it. But the puck slid through his legs and rested in the crease for about four seconds before Wisconsin’s Ross Carlson dove in to try and score it, but Boron got control and covered it up.
The puck dropped again and seconds later Iannazzo had a shot glance off the pipe.
With less than eight minutes to play the Badgers tied the game with a crowd in front of the net. With the puck bouncing around in the crease, Boron could not gain control. Earl tried a shot that bounced away, but Carlson would not be denied this time and put it home.
The point was Carlson’s 13th of his 13-game career since joining Wisconsin in January.
“Ross is a gamer. He makes big plays at big times,” Wisconsin sophomore Adam Burish said. “I can’t say enough for him to step in and contribute the way he has.”
Both teams had decent chances for the rest of the third period and in overtime, but neither could get the job done as the game ended a 1-1 draw.
The two locker rooms had very different feelings after the game.
Wisconsin thought that it had been the better team, frustrated at its lack of scoring and disappointed with the tie.
“We did a lot of good things. Overall the guys are disappointed right now,” Eaves said. “Any time you are at home you expect to win.”
“We’ve been in this situation before, where we have an empty feeling after a tie,” Bruckler said.
On the other side, the Huskies were pleased with the point.
Both goalies played well. Boron made 31 saves in a tough environment and Bruckler stopped 22.
“They both made some key saves,” Eaves said. “The goalie made the saves when he needed to and kept his team in the game.”
The two teams come together again Saturday night, hoping again to break their third-place tie.