MADISON, Wisc. — St. Lawrence has had its share of moral victories over the past few years even as
recently as Friday night but Saturday night the Saints posted a true victory, and one over a top-10 team at that.
Friday night, SLU head coach Joe Marsh took solace in the fact that his Saints had taken the No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers to overtime a moral victory even though they ended up losing 3-2.
One night later, his team fought to overtime again, and thanks to a Wisconsin turnover off the initial overtime faceoff, scored an unlikely shorthanded goal just 10 seconds into extra time to escape with a 2-1 victory.
“We’ve had a lot of moral victories, but we’ve been kind of missing some of the real ones,” Marsh said.
Joe Pavelski won the draw to begin overtime, but the Badgers coughed up the puck at the blue line and Kyle Rank was there to take advantage.
He skated into the offensive zone, making a move around Joe Piskula before firing the puck from the top of the right circle. Brian Elliott got part of his blocker on the puck, but it deflected off and into the far side of the net.
Rank didn’t even know he had scored until he circled around to the back of the net, but the celebration ensued.
“I guess it would have been some moral victory in taking two games to overtime,” Marsh said. “But psychologically, our team is at the point where we’ve been scratching and clawing for the past few years, and it’s been very difficult for us to win games like this.”
The Badgers who had nearly two minutes on the man-advantage to end regulation would have had 13 seconds of power-play action to start overtime, but could not even control the puck to try and make something happen.
“We had some scoring chances and we didn’t bury them,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said.
After what some may call a fluky game-winning goal by the Badgers Friday night, this seemed like a fitting end for such a courageous effort by the Saints.
“They’re a real good team. We’re excited to be able to come into their building and this atmosphere,” Marsh said. “If you can’t enjoy this, if this is not the epitome of college hockey, I don’t know what is. And [we have] something to bring home to show for it.”
“You have to move on,” Eaves said. “It’s our second game of the season that I hope has 45 games and we’ll learn our lesson.”
It was another battle between two teams who had both fought hard the night before. After a slow start in the first period, the teams picked up the pace and the Badgers took the lead midway through the second period with a shorthanded goal of their own.
Andrew Joudrey played the puck off the boards just trying to clear the zone but the puck found its way to a streaking Pavelski, who skated in on goalie Justin Pesony and fired a shot over his glove to take the momentum.
The score remained 1-0 until midway through the third period when the Saints took advantage of a power play and Brock McBride got his second goal of the weekend.
Drew Bagnall kept the puck from leaving his offensive zone, then fired a shot through traffic. McBride got his stick on it to redirect it past Elliott. It was dj vu for McBride who got his first goal as a Saint on a redirect Friday night.
St. Lawrence was 0-for-7 on power-play opportunities before finally taking advantage at 10:00 of the period.
The penalty came after Wisconsin winger Robbie Earl was given a five-minute major and game misconduct. The loss of Earl who is known for coming up with big goals for UW obviously affected the Badgers over the final 12 minutes.
“When your offensive player’s out of the game, it’s hard from that standpoint,” Eaves said. “But the [message] on the bench is, let’s kill this five-minute power play off and see where we go.”
The Badgers had their chances to score in the final minutes of regulation, especially when they got a power play with less than two minutes remaining. But the Badgers felt the absence of Earl, who many times brings the puck up the ice on the power play, was felt in that department as well.
For the second straight night, the Saints clawed their way to overtime, but this time, came out on top with Rank’s quick goal. Credit St. Lawrence for coming into a major arena, filled with 12,420 fans in attendance, and not backing down.
Though the Saints got just four shots on goal in the first period, they stormed back and outshot the Badgers in the final two periods, and for the game by a count of 34-27.
“We’re going to go through some growing pains like this,” Pavelski said. “This was a growing pain weekend, it was tough.”
With their resilient effort, the Saints earned themselves a victory Saturday night.
St. Lawrence will try to keep the momentum as they take on Massachusetts and Providence in nonconference action next weekend.
Wisconsin, the tough test from the Saints, gets a break next weekend before opening up WCHA play at St. Cloud Oct. 21.
“What this weekend really does issets us up. We played a quality team that made us work and that’s exactly what we’re going to see in a couple weeks,” Eaves said. “So we’ll take the lessons and get ready for the WCHA opener.”