MADISON, Wis. — After giving up three unanswered goals in the third period Friday night, the Denver Pioneers came out Saturday ready to make sure that they would hand the Badgers their first loss of the season.
On the strength of 19 shots on goal in the second period, Denver ruined the Badgers’ bid for a third straight sweep, fighting its way to a 5-3 win.
“I thought we set the tone for the win in the second period … making them really work to defend us,” Denver assistant coach Steve Miller said. “Our pride was stung last night and the boys responded.”
“We don’t want to give anything up here, this is our building,” Wisconsin captain Adam Burish said. “Are we happy with the split? Absolutely not. We’ll never be happy with a split at home. Thats the attitude the guys have to have.”
Play went back and forth much like Friday night’s contest. The Badgers tied the game up three different times, but the Pioneers were relentless and had an answer for every Badger score.
The Badgers dug themselves an early hole, giving up two goals in the opening 20 minutes.
“They picked it up a notch and we weren’t as sharp right from the get go,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. “Then we have to try to play catch up in getting ourselves to the level that matches them, and that’s a difficult thing to do.”
Denver took the lead just 23 seconds into game on a give-and-go play. Jeff Drummond passed the puck to Jussi Halme who gave it right back and Drummond beat Bruckler glove-side.
Wisconsin answered back midway through the period when Robbie Earl took the puck into the zone and dropped a pass back to Davis Drewiske. Drewiske rifled a shot past Mannino’s stick.
Denver would take the lead back just minutes later when Luke Fulgham just tried to put a shot on from the top of the left circle. The puck found its way under Bruckler’s arm into the net.
“There is no excuse for me to lose the puck on that shot and I just have to stop it,” Bruckler said.
The Badgers had given up just three goals in the second and third periods combined coming into the game, but have been plagued by allowing early goals. They have been outscored 7-5 in the opening period.
“The last couple weekends we battled back, but against good teams you can’t put yourself in that kind of hole,” Badger assistant captain Tom Gilbert said. “We put ourselves in that hole again and we couldn’t scramble out of it.”
Coincidentally, the Badgers would end up giving up as many second and third period goals in this game as they had in their first five games combined.
“They were in our face the whole game, hitting us, beating us to loose pucks, and that’s why they won the game and that’s why they won the national championship last year,” Burish said.
Denver, after being outshot 8-6 in first period, came out firing in the second period, landing 19 shots on goal to Wisconsin’s five. However, both teams scored twice and Denver would carry that one-goal advantage into the final 20 minutes.
Wisconsin winger Ryan MacMurchy tied the game up less than five minutes into the period, one-timing a pass from Jake Dowell over Mannino’s right shoulder. It would be the first of three power-play goals in the second period.
At 9:39 of the period Denver regained the lead when J.D. Corbin passed the puck through the defense to Gabe Gauthier. Gauthier banked the puck off Bruckler’s left leg and into the net.
With less than five minutes to play, Dowell tied the game up yet again on just the third shot of the period by Wisconsin. On the power play, MacMurchy poked the puck behind the net where Dowell picked it up.
Mannino did not see Dowell and expected to find the puck on the other side of the net, but Dowell wrapped it in to tie the game at three goals apiece.
Mannino struggled in the period, stopping just three of the five shots he faced.
The Badgers went two-for-two during the second period with the man- advantage, but Denver would get one of its own with less than two minutes remaining on the clock.
Defenseman Matt Carle attempted a shot from the point. The puck was headed wide, but Drummond got his stick on it and knocked it over Bruckler for his second goal of the game and what would be the game- winner.
“That’s the best way to respond I think — getting a goal right after they get a goal,” Drummond said.
Bruckler did all he could in the second period, stopping 17 shots, 12 of which came during the penalty kill. Bruckler did not fare well in his first Saturday night start of the season, allowing five goals. Sophomore Brian Elliott had started the previous two Saturday night games.
“We saw Bernd get into a little groove last night … he was outstanding in that second period. He made some unbelievable saves,” Eaves said.
Denver would add one more goal at 3:36 of the period which seemed to kill any hopes of a Badger comeback.
The Badgers tried to battle back as much as they could, but eventually frustration settled in. The Badgers, frustrated in both their play and the officiating, eventually they seemed to take themselves out of the game.
Denver came out and played a physical 60 minutes of hockey. Mannino finished with 23 saves, getting the nod over Friday night’s goaltender Glenn Fisher.
“I thought Mannino played very well,” Miller said. “There were so many traffic saves he got a shoulder on, or got a stick on, or got a glove on … From him down every line, every defensive combination played great. It was a great team effort.”