MADISON, Wis. — The score does not always portray the entire story of a hockey game. Just ask Alaska-Anchorage freshman goalie Nathan Lawson. Lawson took the 6-1 loss at Wisconsin Friday night despite making 31 saves in just two periods, in a game where the Badgers must have felt like they never left their end of the ice.
“I think the weekend in St. Cloud was a step in the right direction of getting the momentum,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. “We were disappointed with our performance at the Showdown and wanted to come back and show the folks here at home that we could play at a higher level.
The Badgers posted 51 shots in the game and it was the first time they tallied 50 shots or more in head coach Mike Eaves’ tenure. Lawson kept his team in the game for the first 30 minutes, but saw a decent outing go downhill quickly late in the second period as he gave up four goals over the final 10 minutes of the second period.
In fact, the barrage was so disorienting that Lawson apparently forgot how many goals he gave up.
“I made, obviously five mistakes which they scored on, which I’d like to have back,” he said.
He was able to fend off the Badgers through the first 20 minutes as he stopped 16 Badger shots. At the other end, senior goalie Bernd Bruckler had to stop just six shots from the Seawolves.
Wisconsin came right back out ready for more in the second period and would not leave empty handed this time. The Badgers notched four goals on the scoreboard on 19 second-period shots.
They got on the board at 9:08 of the period on a power play. Ross Carlson snuck a pass through the circles to a ready and waiting Robbie Earl. Earl knocked the puck into the wide open net left of Lawson’s glove.
The Badgers’ second goal came just after their second power play of the period had just ended. With a number of players scrapping for the puck in front of the crease, Joe Pavelski got his stick on it and was able to poke it through Lawson’s legs for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Three minutes later Wisconsin struck again. Nick Licari nabbed the puck off the boards and passed it to Jake Dowell. Dowell returned the puck to Licari in front of the net where he made a diving swipe to put the puck past Lawson’s stick.
“The message to our guys is that if they want to score goals, they’re going to have to pay the price,” Eaves said of the gritty goal-scoring.
Wisconsin tried to do the Seawolves a favor in the following minutes, taking three penalties which resulted in two minutes of five-on-three advantage. The Seawolves mustered just three shots over that time and to add salt to the wound, Badger captain Adam Burish netted a shorthanded goal.
“We were inept. We needed the shots from the point to get through. The game started with us not being crisp with our passing and it continued through,” Anchorage head coach John Hill said. “After [the five-on- three], that’s when you know it’s just not going to happen tonight.”
Dowell lofted a pass into the air from blue line to blue line and the puck landed right on Burish’s stick. He skated right in and put it through Lawson’s legs for his second shorthanded goal of the season.
“It was really important. It gave our team momentum with the fact that we killed off those five on threes, and then to turnaround and get a goal off of it was a big turnaround for us,” Dowell said.
Through two periods, the Badgers outshot the Seawolves 35-11. By that point, Hill cut his losses and pulled Lawson for junior John DeCaro in the third period.
“It was just to get him some rest and get him ready for tomorrow,” Hill said of pulling Lawson. “I was not disappointed in his play at all. He kept us in as long as he could.”
Lawson was harder on himself.
“No matter how many shots you have, you should stop them all, but it just wasn’t my night tonight,” he said.
Things would not get any easier for DeCaro. Badger freshman Matt Ford snuck the puck through the five hole on the first shot that DeCaro saw, just 57 seconds into the third period on a Wisconsin power play.
It took more than 11 minutes for the Seawolves to get a shot on Bruckler in the third period, a meek dribble that found its way to the crease.
They managed to get on the board on a power play of their own with less than six minutes remaining, but Badger defenseman Tom Gilbert responded with a power play goal of his own three minutes later as the game ended 6-1.
Even after the loss, Hill spoke less of what his team could not do and more about the sharp play of Wisconsin.
“Certainly I could sit here and talk about what we did not do and were not able to do,” he said. “But I think they are a very good hockey team and if they can stay healthy they are going to be tough.”
Lawson will get another chance, and hopefully for his sake, a little help from his offense Saturday night at the Kohl Center.
“I just have to put that game behind me and learn from the mistakes and move on tomorrow night,” Lawson said.
The Badgers will try for the season sweep of the Seawolves and grab their fourth straight win while trying to retain the lead atop the WCHA standings.