ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Ryan MacMurchy made his New Year’s resolution, and eight days into the new year, he’s it’s still holding true to it.
Although he did make it a little easier on himself Saturday night, scoring all four goals to lead Wisconsin past St. Cloud State 4-2 and complete the weekend road sweep of the Huskies.
He did in all ends, and in all corners of the net. In the process, he helped keep the Badgers (15-6-1 overall, 12-4-0 WCHA) atop the conference standings.
“My resolution for the second half after Christmas was to start playing harder,” said MacMurchy, whose family made the trip down from Regina, Sask., to watch tonight’s game in St. Cloud. “I didn’t feel like I was playing to my strengths as much … but I’m feeling good so hopefully we can just keep this going.”
That good feeling came after an auspicious start to the night for MacMurchy. The PA guy read his name three times in the first period, but the first two were for a pair of penalties he took within two and a half minutes of each other.
But instead of loosing his cool, MacMurchy started to loose the St. Cloud State defenders.
“We had a talk (after those penalties), said Badger head coach Mike Eaves. “And to his credit he responded the right way.”
His first goal came on the back end of a tic-tac-toe play while the Badgers were up a pair of men. Andrew Joudrey sent the puck down low to Jake Dowell, who was camped at the bottom of the right-wing circle. He turned and quickly hit MacMurchy in the slot, and before SCSU goaltender Tim Boron could blink, the puck was behind him.
After the Huskies broke a six-period goalless streak to with a shorthanded breakaway goal from Dave Iannazzo late in the first, the Badgers clamped down.
MacMurchy got his second 8:28 into the middle period, taking a pass from Matt Ford in the low corner and holding off St. Cloud State’s T.J. McElroy before circling the crease and sneaking a shot past a sprawled out Boron.
He completed his first career hat trick less than two minutes later. The Badgers caught the Huskies deep in the St. Cloud zone and ended up breaking out 2-on-0. MacMurchy brought the puck across the blue line, and could have fed Ford who was a step ahead of him, but instead put shot on Boron that snuck under the goaltender and slid into the net.
“I probably could have hit Ford,” MacMurchy. “But by the time I picked my head up he was already stopped in front of the net, so I just shot.”
The 2-on-0 was a staple of how Wisconsin performed in the second period. They had as many goals as St. Cloud had shots, and dominated every phase of the middle 20 minutes.
“We didn’t give them an awful lot in the second period,” said Eaves. “And we were hoping to have more of that in the third, but the kids didn’t panic.
Wisconsin didn’t give the Huskies much in the third either, but they did allow them to make things interesting.
Andrew Gordon made it a one-goal game with a power play snipe with over 11 minutes left in the game, but a Matt Francis penalty shortly after killed that momentum.
Their best chance after that came off the stick of Matt Dey, who found what most of the Huskies did all weekend long, sending a shot right into Bernd Bruckler’s pads.
“I was happy with our third period,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl, “But that was about it.”
Dahl called a timeout with 1:36 left and immediately pulled Boron, but 44 seconds later the Badgers had the puck back in the St. Cloud State end — and guess who ended up with it on his stick?
“That was the easiest, but with the way things were going for me, I’ll take it,” said MacMurchy, who only had five goals heading into the night and said he was fighting the puck a bit before this weekend.
He didn’t fight with it at all tonight. He could have had six, but had a first-period shot ricochet off the post and had another second-period chance end up in Boron’s glove.
He had to settle for four, which coupled with last night’s 6-0 whitewashing of the Huskies, was enough to erase at least some of last weekend’s nightmarish performance in the Badger Showdown.
“This feels good, especially after we had such a bad weekend last weekend,” said MacMurchy. “We expected to take our tournament and it kind of left a sour spot in us and kind of motivated us.”
“I would look at it as we moved forward,” said Eaves. “We reminded (how we need to play) and got it going again. It goes back to that old clich that winning’s a habit and so is losing. We’ve got to go back to the winning habits and keep it going this week.”
The Badgers will try and take those habits east on I-94 and back to Madison, where Alaska-Anchorage will meet them next weekend. After that it’s a non-conference series with Notre Dame the following weekend before returning home for a pivotal showdown with Minnesota at the Kohl Center.
St. Cloud State doesn’t get a break either, as it heads to Minnesota-Duluth next weekend.