MADISON, Wis. — Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin’s frustration showed. In his mind, his team has been the better one in its last three games.
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves admitted that his team still is not playing its best hockey, but for the second straight night the Badgers defeated the Bulldogs 3-2 and took over the top spot in the WCHA.
“We played well enough to win again,” Sandelin said. “It’s tough. We just keep building on good things. We’ve played three pretty good games in a row and probably deserved to win all three of them, but we didn’t.”
“We got it done. We did what we had to do and came out with four points,” Wisconsin forward Matt Ford said.
Duluth came out looking to make a statement after Friday’s loss and did so. But the Badgers were able to stay in the game and finally showed glimpses of the team that they can be in the third period to finish the sweep.
The Bulldogs came out of the locker room hot, finishing hard hits and playing with a chip on the shoulders, but it was the Badgers who got on the board first.
They took the first lead of the game 8:16 into the first period on a good-looking passing sequence. On the power play, Andrew Joudrey worked the puck around to Jake Dowell who found Ford in front of the Bulldog net. Ford chipped it past Isaac Reichmuth for his first collegiate point.
“Usually the first one is usually the hardest, but Dowell and Joudrey made it easy for me,” Ford said.
Duluth tied it up at the 12:40 mark when the Bulldogs got their second goal of the weekend off the faceoff. T.J. Caig collected the puck in the slot and fired a wrister past Bernd Bruckler’s glove to tie the game at one goal apiece. The Bulldogs then took the lead just a minute later when Marco Peluso found the back of the net. Evan Schwabe took the puck into the zone and passed it ahead to Peluso who stuck his stick out and lifted the puck over the right shoulder of Bruckler to take the 2-1 advantage.
Then, for the second night of the row, a goal was scored with less than one second remaining in the first period. Friday night Duluth scored with just 0.1 seconds left and Saturday night UW junior captain Adam Burish tied the game up for the Badgers with just 0.4 showing on the clock.
Robbie Earl skated through the neutral zone as the Bulldogs picked a poor time to change lines. Earl passed the puck to the left to Burish who skated in on Reichmuth. He took the shot and the puck found its way underneath the goalies’ leg to tie the game 2-2 going into the first intermission.
“It wasn’t a good line change,” Sandelin said. “It wasn’t a good decision. You have to have some clock awareness too.”
“We got two goals in the first but we didn’t play very well. We didn’t do the simple things,” Eaves said. “They came out and made a statement.”
The second period was much quieter as Duluth dominated the stat sheet but the score did not change. The Bulldogs outshot the Badgers 11-4 over the second 20 minutes.
That would be the story, but the Bulldogs scoring woes continued and a Badger power play goal just 1:50 into the third period put them away for good.
Kyle Klubertanz snapped a shot off between the circles that was blocked by Duluth defenseman Tyler Brosz. The puck bounced straight to Robbie Earl who shot one over Reichmuth’s left shoulder.
The Badgers’ defense held up throughout the last 18 minutes, including during a Bulldog power play at 4:28.
“I believe the only period we played better them was the third period,” Eaves said.
The Bulldogs’ scoring woes continued as they outshot the Badgers 25-18 but scored just twice and went 0-for-6 on the power play.
“They got two power play goals and we didn’t get any,” Sandelin said. “We’ve got to start scoring five-on-five too. We had our chances.”
Reichmuth’s struggles continue as well as his numbers remain reasonable but his record fell to 3-5-1 this year.
The Badgers on the other hand, scrapped out another victory and climb to the top of the standings after a sub-par weekend. The third period may have been an indication that they are snapping out of their recent funk.
“It’s definitely a positive. Good teams find a way to win,” Nick Licari said. “We’re headed in the right direction and we got four points against a quality opponent.”
They will look to carry momentum into another sweep next weekend at Minnesota State while Duluth will look to keep playing at the same intensity with hopes that the puck starts bouncing their way. They host North Dakota next weekend.