MADISON, Wis. — The match up between Wisconsin and North Dakota brings two things to mind when the teams meet — high scores and physical play. Friday night brought one of those as the Badgers battled to a 1-0 victory over the Sioux.
After a first period highlighted by poor passing and inconsistent shooting on both sides, the Badgers took to the offensive towards the end of the second period, outshooting North Dakota in the final two periods, but the difference-maker in the low scoring game ended up being several momentum-building moments that turned the tables in favor of Wisconsin.
“The first period was not as good as we’ve played,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said, “but we did get it going in the second and third.”
The lone goal of the night came on a goal 10:22 into the second period when Wisconsin’s leading scorer, junior forward Ryan MacMurchy, took a shot off the far-side of UND freshman goalie Philippe Lamoureux when Lamoureux leaned away after MacMurchy received the assist from freshman defenseman Kyle Klubertanz.
The second period ended in a melee after UW senior goalie Bernd Bruckler went to the corner to trap the puck to close the second stanza, only to be pinned to the boards by several North Dakota players. A brawl broke out between the benches, resulting in 14 minutes of penalties distributed to both benches.
The fight appeared to completely shift momentum to the Badgers, when both teams came back to start the third period. Wisconsin came out aggressively, as both teams pounded into the boards for the puck.
The Sioux tallied nine penalties to Wisconsin’s five, a discrepancy UND head coach Dave Hakstol declined to comment on after the game. Nonetheless, despite the Badgers having had a power-play goal in all eight games of the season, they were unable to convert in this game.
“We created shots, we had chances, we had looks at it; if we didn’t get chances, we’d be upset, but we had some good chances,” Eaves said.
Wisconsin staved-off a late rush by North Dakota thanks to the play of Bruckler, who recorded his sixth career shutout. The game likely silenced critics of Bruckler who has struggled to find consistency early in the season
“I feel a lot better than the start of the season,” Bruckler said. “For whatever reason I had a rough start, the bounces weren’t going my way at the beginning, and I didn’t feel as comfortable. Now I feel a lot more comfortable.”
Buckler’s 23 saves supplemented an aggressive third period attack by the Badgers, who out-shot their opponent 15-to-5, 11-to-4 in power-play situations.
“I think you take a look at power play shots that they probably had-that’s probably a start,” Hakstol said regarding the difference-maker of the game. “I didn’t think offensively we had the jump or intensity — not just the last 20 minutes, but the last 30 minutes.”
Despite being disappointed with the lack of intensity of his team in the late minutes, Haskstol remained pleased with the effort put in by Lamoureux (35 saves), who started in only his fourth game of the season, and had little doubts of the freshman’s ability to perform in front of a loud and hostile Kohl Center.
“Phil’s a freshman, but he’s played in pressure situations. He’s pretty composed,” Hakstol said.
The bruising play between the two teams is something both have come to expect and was something the Badgers prepared this week during practice, junior forward Nick Licari said.
“You practice how you play,” Licari said. “We had a very intense week of practice and we were beating up on each other a little bit. We were looking forward to beating up on somebody else tonight. I think they played a very hard game and they matched our intensity and that’s what makes the WCHA what it is.”
Friday’s game broke a three-game losing streak for Wisconsin. The two teams will meet again Saturday night in Wisconsin in what will likely be another extremely physical match-up.
“That was one of the most exciting games — especially in the second and third — that I’ve played,” MacMurchy said.