MANKATO, Minn. — Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said there was a marquee matchup in Friday night’s game between Minnesota State’s David Backes and UW’s Bernd Bruckler.
Round one went to Backes.
The sophomore forward for MSU beat the Badger goalie twice, including a goal in overtime, as the Mavericks knocked off No. 2 Wisconsin 4-3 in front of 3,383 at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center.
“I think you saw a big-time player with two big-time shots for his goals tonight,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said. “I think that’s the best goalie in the country in Bruckler, and he beat him clean twice tonight. That’s a big-time player that can do that, because I think that Bruckler’s a big-time player.”
The win put Minnesota State (7-6-2 overall, 3-7-1 WCHA) over .500 for the first time all season. The Badgers fell to 12-5-0 overall, 9-4-0 in the WCHA.
Backes’ overtime goal came off a lucky bounce. The Badgers flipped the puck to mid-ice from their zone, and it took a bounce back towards UW’s zone and right over to Backes. Had the puck bounced forward, Wisconsin could have had an odd-man rush.
“It was one of those plays where the puck was flipped up in the air, and it took a favorable bounce for the Mavericks for a change … It was one of those things where there was another force behind that puck, and I’m thankful for it,” said Backes.
The sophomore skated down the left side of the Badger zone, and Wisconsin defenseman Jeff Likens fell down while trying to stay in front of Backes. Backes moved around Likens and fired a shot over Bruckler and into the corner of the goal at 1:12 of overtime.
“I think it was a good test of character that we came back and tied the game, and then in overtime jumped on an opportunity that we had to steal a game here,” Backes said. “It was a great game.”
The contest was filled with comebacks, as both teams found ways to climb back into a game that seemed to have slipped away from them.
The Badgers were trailing 2-0 midway through the second when Bruckler gave them the spark they needed.
Bruckler robbed Rob Rankin on a two-on-one chance by gloving the junior’s shot. Seconds later, Travis Morin got a wraparound pass from Brock Becker. Morin’s shot from the slot was also gloved by Bruckler, and the Austrian goalie allowed no rebound.
Bruckler’s play gave Wisconsin a chance, and the Badgers cashed in on a power play to make it a one-goal game midway through the second.
Ross Carlson tried to pass the puck from down low on the left side to teammate Joe Pavelski. MSU goalie Jon Volp blocked the pass, but the puck came back to Carlson. With Volp out of position, Carlson put the puck into an empty left side of the net at 13:33 of the second.
The sophomore added his second goal of the night in the third to tie the game at 2-2. At the 13-minute mark, the sophomore took a shot from the slot that went over Volp’s shoulder and into the net. The goal gave Carlson eight on the season.
“I give Wisconsin a lot of credit,” Jutting said. “For them to battle back in a visiting rink being down 2-0, they’re obviously a very good hockey team.”
Just 52 seconds later, the Badgers took a 3-2 lead off a power-play goal. Sophomore Jake Dowell, positioned on the right side of the net, took a pass from Pavelski and finished the back-door play by beating Volp on the right side.
“When they scored that third goal to go ahead, I saw our kids say, ‘Hey, that’s enough. We gotta go get one now.’ I think it fired our kids up. I think they felt like they had played pretty hard, and they weren’t going to let it go without a fight,” Jutting said.
The Mavericks answered the comeback with one of their own, as senior Adam Gerlach scored with 3:23 left in the third.
The forward followed up a three-on-two rush by receiving a drop pass and firing from the left circle. The shot banged off the crossbar and in, sending the game into overtime and paving the way for Backes’ heroics.
“It’s a great shot off the crossbar and in,” Backes said. “For Adam, I bet it’s a great relief. He works hard everyday, and he doesn’t reap a lot of the benefits. Tonight I think he got to.”
“The tying goal was a bad line change, we couldn’t get there,” Eaves said. “They had four guys up on the play, took a shot, and scored. That typified the whole game to me.”
Early on, Backes scored the first goal of the game on a shot similar to his OT winner. While MSU enjoyed a man-advantage, Backes carried the puck up the right side on a rush. The forward fired a laser from the right circle that caught the right corner of the goal 2:57 into the second period.
The Mavericks went 1-6 on the power play, while Wisconsin finished 2-8.
The Mavericks built their lead to 2-0 with a goal right after killing a Badger power play. Defenseman Chad Brownlee fired a shot from the blue line that hit Bruckler’s stick and bounced over the goalie before passing the goal line. Brownlee’s first goal of the season came at 7:17 of the second.
“The whole game was about details, and we weren’t very detailed tonight,” Eaves said.
“Nothing’s every under control. That’s what we’ve got to remember,” Carlson said, later adding, “It is a wakeup. It definitely is a wakeup call. We should have known that they were going to come out hard.”
The two teams will finish the conference matchup Saturday night with game time set for 7:05 p.m.