MADISON, Wis. — After 40 minutes of back-and-forth action Friday night, Wisconsin took over in the third period with a trio of unanswered goals to cap a 6-3 victory over Denver in front of 10,759.
After exchanging goals in the first two periods, the Badgers took the edge.
“They clamped down in the third period,” Denver assistant coach Steve Miller said. “We gave them opportunities to score and they cashed in on them.”
Sophomore forward Ross Carlson gave the Badgers the lead for good less than three minutes into the final period. He got his stick on a flying puck and chipped it over Denver goalie Glenn Fisher.
Freshman Joe Pavelski would add another goal midway through, taking advantage of a rebound. Robbie Earl tacked on one more with less than two minutes to play.
“Our hard work paid off again,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said.
Wisconsin has yet to give up one third-period goal this season, outscoring opponents 13-0 through the first five games of the season.
The two teams played a close contest through the first two periods.
Wisconsin defenseman Jeff Likens handed the Pioneers the early lead seven at 7:38 of the period when he turned the puck over to Luke Fulghum in front of goalie Bernd Bruckler.
The Badgers would even the score six minutes later. Sophomore Robbie Earl skated the puck into the zone and fired it into the chest of sophomore goalie Glenn Fisher. Fisher could not contain the puck and Adam Burish knocked it in to tie the game 1-1.
The offense continued into the second period and the teams exchanged two goals each.
The Badgers took the lead just 36 seconds into the period when Pavelski took advantage of a power play for his first of the night. Pavelski grabbed a turnover at mid-ice and skated in on Fisher before firing a shot past his glove.
The freshman finished the night with three points giving him 11 already this season.
Denver struck back less than three minutes later when Jon Foster got his seventh goal of the season, also a power-play goal. Foster one-timed a pass from Brett Skinner past the stick of Bruckler.
With more than 13 minutes left in the period, it appeared that a Denver shot found the back of the net, but the officials made no signal as play continued. Would it have been a home game for the Pioneers, they could have checked a replay, but no such like in Madison.
“It happens, we’ve all seen it over the years,” Miller said. “We kept playing hard and didn’t let it affect us.”
Play continued and Carlson scored his first of the night at 13:03 of the period. He towards the net on a power play and Ryan MacMurchy passed it to him from behind the net.
“The second period was kind of like firewagon hockey,” Eaves said. “When you play firewagon hockey, the last guy with the puck wins.”
Denver got the period’s only even-strength goal less than two minutes later as Geoff Paukovich took advantage of a rebound.
That would turn out to be Denver’s last score as the Badgers dominated the third period.
It was the same story as it has been in the early season for the Badgers. An emphasis on strength and conditioning proved to be the difference late in the game and Wisconsin allowed just five shots on goal in the third period.
“You’re going from one thing to the next. After you’re done with the weights, some teams would just be done, but we go condition for another 20 minutes,” Pavelski.
The Badgers converted on three of their seven power plays, while the Pioneers scored on just one of seven.
“We have to get better on the power play,” Miller said. “We’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of speed and we just have to stick with it.”
Despite making just 19 saves while giving up six goals, Miller though Fisher was Denver’s best player.
“Go back and look at the goals, those were all pretty good shots,” Miller said.
The Badgers have now scored six or more goals in three of their last four games.
“Offensively we have a lot more depth,” Carlson said. “We play four lines and that kind of gives us a little break.”
At the opposite end of the ice, Bruckler finished with 28 saves.
“It was back and forth and a lot of odd-man rushes,” Bruckler said. “It was a different game and I just had to find that [groove] throughout the course of the game.”
The Badgers tallied their first victory against Denver at the Kohl Center in nine tries, improving to 5-0-0 on the season and will look for their second straight WCHA sweep Saturday night.
Denver, now 3-3-0 on the year, will try to force a series split.