MADISON, Wis. — After struggling to find the back of the net in its first two series, No. 12 Wisconsin scored early and scored often against Alaska-Anchorage Friday night.
The Badgers scored twice in the first seven minutes and piled on four more goals over the course of the game en route to a 6-1 victory in rather dominating fashion. UW outshot UAA on the game 46-19.
“I thought five-on-five, we got terribly outplayed. We didn’t compete,” UAA head coach Dave Shyiak said. “They won all the one-on-one battles. Physically they beat us up, they got the loose pucks.”
It was a far cry from Wisconsin’s Friday night performance a week earlier in St. Cloud in which it had to settle for a 2-2 tie.
“I think a lot of it was we were pretty disappointed with last Friday’s performance,” senior Nick Licari said. “Coach got on us a little bit, and rightfully so. Tonight we took it upon ourselves to get ourselves going instead of having coach come in and get on us.”
Contributing to the Badgers’ scoring woes, they had struggled on the power play early on. In its first four games, Wisconsin was just 2-for-29, less than 7 percent on the year.
But, following a hard week of practice which emphasized scoring goals in any way possible, the Badgers went 2-for-8 on the man advantage.
Wisconsin came out firing on all cylinders and clearly was playing in a higher gear than UAA, especially to start the game.
“That’s as good as we’ve been coming out and dictating a first period,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said.
The Badgers got on the board just 3:31 into the first period. Skating in two-on-two, UW freshman Ben Street took both defenders with him, allowing Andrew Joudrey a clear shot from the right circle. His wrister sailed over John DeCaro’s glove to give UW a 1-0 lead and the early momentum.
Wisconsin would double its lead just three minutes later when Ross Carlson was in the right place at the right time. DeCaro made a save on a shot from Joe Pavelski, but gave the rebound up to Carlson for an easy rebound goal–eventually turning out to be the game winner.
“It was important to get a good start. We got it deep right away, got some good shots early and the crowd got into it,” Pavelski said. “I think we just fed off that and were able to roll.”
The Seawolves got one back late in the period with a power-play tally of their own to cut the lead in half. Despite being outshot 22-6 in the first 20 minutes, they were only down one goal at the end of the first.
But Anchorage could not steal the momentum. In fact, the Badgers made it quite clear that the energy was all theirs to start the second stanza.
Wisconsin opened the period with a power play thanks to a Seawolf penalty at the end of the first and took advantage of it.
Pavelski got his team-leading fourth goal of the year with another rebound goal, picking up the puck after a shot was blocked and sneaking it under the right leg of DeCaro to make it 3-1. And the rout was on.
“They came out and got us down 2-0 right away and kept going from there,” Shyiak said. “We got back in it, and I’ll take it even going into the second period down 2-1. Then they just took it over from there.”
Licari put the Badgers up three goals by taking advantage of an Anchorage turnover deep in the UW zone with less than seven minutes left.
Wisconsin may not have had the same intensity in the second period, but the Seawolves had mustered just 11 shots through two periods, while the Badgers had blasted 53 total shots, 33 of them on net, at DeCaro.
The third period saw much of the same as the Badgers added two more tallies–including one last minute empty-netter to skate off with the big win.
The Badgers clearly showed what kind of team they can be with their play Friday, but they made it clear nobody on the team is satisfied. They want to play every game like they played in the first period against the Seawolves.
“Until we do it consistently for a month, two months, then you know it’s ingrained and part of who you are,” Eaves said. “You saw the first period, if you could have that all the time, that would be terrific.”
“I think there were glimpses,” Pavelski said. “We’re still going to get better. There’s definitely room for improvement.”
While UW goalie Brian Elliott had a rather quiet night in net. DeCaro was busy at the other end, making 40 saves, but allowing five goals on the night.
“We did a good job the last four games keeping teams pretty much under 30 [shots],” Shyiak said. “This team, traditionally, has been giving up 38 shots a game, and that was no different tonight.”
The challenge for Shyiak will be finding a way to turn things around heading into Saturday’s series finale.
With momentum clearly on its side, Wisconsin will look for two more league points and a series sweep at the Kohl Center tomorrow night.