DULUTH, Minn. — Marco Peluso wasn’t going to miss Saturday’s game at the DECC.
The Minnesota-Duluth senior winger was sick to his stomach the day before and sat out Friday’s game against Wisconsin.
But the rematch was the final home game of the season and a night when UMD’s seniors would be recognized.
“When I got up Saturday I felt much better. The difference was like night and day,” said Peluso, who watched Friday’s game on TV from home. “I was still a little weak, but this was going to be my last game in this rink. I got ready.”
UMD appreciated the effort of its No. 2 scorer.
Peluso scored consecutive second-period goals to spark the Bulldogs to a 4-3 victory over No. 6 Wisconsin before a sellout crowd of 5,408.
Momentum was UMD’s goal and the Bulldogs take a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) to North Dakota this weekend for a first-round, best-of-3 WCHA playoff series. UMD (15-15-6) finished 11-13-4 for sixth place. Wisconsin (21-11-4) ended tied for third with Minnesota at 16-9-3, but will have the No. 4 seed in the league playoffs, meeting Alaska-Anchorage this weekend. The Badgers are 1-5-3 the past nine games.
“We’ve been playing some pretty good hockey against some pretty good teams the last few weeks,” said UMD senior winger Luke Stauffacher, who assisted on Peluso’s goals for his first career points against Wisconsin. “In a lot of other games this season we’ve played well enough to win and haven’t. Now we’re winning those games.”
Following a pregame ceremonial farewell to a school-record 11 seniors, UMD battled the Badgers in a defensive, playoff-style that lasted one period, then it turned offensive.
The Bulldogs scored three second-period goals, two by Peluso, who has 19 this season to tie Evan Schwabe for the team lead. Center Tim Stapleton gave the Bulldogs a 4-2 lead at 7:18 of the third period, then the Badgers got within 4-3 with 3:51 to play and pulled goalie Bernd Bruckler with 87 seconds left.
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves called UMD goalie Isaac Reichmuth the difference in the game and the series. Reichmuth had back-to-back saves about six minutes into the third period, including an impressive toe stop on Ross Carlson. UMD led in total shots 32-31 as Reichmuth earned his 50th career win matching the total of All-American Bruckler.
“After Wisconsin scored their third goal we didn’t give them another shot on goal the rest of the way. They didn’t even come close to scoring. That shows the commitment of our players,” said Reichmuth, who has made six straight starts, including Friday’s 2-2 tie.
The Bulldogs said they were flat in being outshot 10-4 in the first period, and Wisconsin had the first seven shots of the second period in the first five minutes.
Just moments after a power play ended, Wisconsin went up 1-0 at 2:53. A Ryan MacMurchy shot hit the crossbar and freshman center Joe Pavelski converted the rebound for his 12th goal of the season.
UMD went on consecutive power plays and found some life. A Stauffacher shot from between the circles didn’t get to the net, but Peluso was there at the left edge to tie the game 1-1 at 8:04.
Goals were rapid-fire in the last five minutes with three in 105 seconds.
Peluso’s second goal came as Stauffacher pressured the puck along the Wisconsin endboards. He got a pass to Peluso alone in front and he went high over Bruckler with 4:37 left. Andrew Joudrey answered in 53 seconds on a Wisconsin power play from the right circle.
The Bulldogs regained the lead at 3-2 just 52 seconds later when freshman defenseman Travis Gawryletz got his second goal in two nights from high on the right side. There was some discussion after the play because the Badgers believed a previous UMD shot in the sequence hit the glass behind the Wisconsin net and then the netting above the glass, which would have required a faceoff. Yet play continued, leading to the goal.
Eaves talked with referee Todd Anderson, while UMD coach Scott Sandelin felt the game was being delayed. There was a bit of jawing between the benches but it was smoothed over after the game.
“It was a turning point in the game and our contention was that the puck hit the glass and hit the netting,” said Eaves.
Stapleton gave UMD some breathing room before Jake Dowell got Wisconsin within one.
“I didn’t think our effort was very good in the first period, but once we got that first goal that got us going,” said Sandelin