MADISON, Wis. — Faced with killing off a five-on-three power play, up 2-0, for the first 1:40 of the third period, Wisconsin wasn’t nervous about the Tigers’ chance to turn the game around. In fact, the Badgers were even excited about the opportunity to seize that energy by killing off that disadvantage.
The attitude – different than perhaps most teams in the country and a change from past Wisconsin teams – seemed to work, as the No. 5 Badgers (7-1-2, 6-0-2 WCHA) killed off that time and added a power-play goal to skate off with a 3-0 win over No. 1 Colorado College (9-2-1, 4-1-1).
“[There] was a little excitement in [the locker room],” Wisconsin goalie Brian Elliott said. “We were happy to know that all we had to do is kill that off and we’d have the momentum going the rest of the third.”
“We actually had good puck movement,” Colorado College Head Coach Scott Owens said. “We just couldn’t get it through. They are very good defensively.”
Unfortunately, a hit at the buzzer and scuffle after the game may take something away from what was a premiere matchup that lived up to its billing.
After Friday night’s 2-2 tie, assistant captain Tom Gilbert talked about carrying momentum from the final 45 minutes of the game into Saturday night’s finale. The Badgers did just about as much as they could with that momentum, scoring twice in the first 1:28.
Senior Adam Burish set the tone of the first period by scoring just 17 seconds after the opening faceoff.
“They came out with unbelievable energy,” Owens said. “We knew they were going to come out with that kind of intensity, but they kind of steam rolled us a bit.”
Robbie Earl got the puck along the boards and found Burish in the left circle. The puck got lost in the senior’s skates, but he spun around and swiped at the puck, shooting it past the right foot of unsuspecting Colorado College goalie Matt Zaba to give the Badgers a quick 1-0 lead.
The quick shot and goal was just the beginning of what turned out to be an offensive opening 20 minutes, as the two teams combined for 27 shots.
“We were tremendous,” Wisconsin Head Coach Mike Eaves said. “We really jumped on them right away, that was the difference in the game.”
Junior Ross Carlson quickly made it 2-0 a little more than a minute later when he forced a turnover deep in his offensive zone.
Carlson challenged Tigers defenseman Jesse Stokke for the puck behind the net, poke-checking it away from the defender to the right side of the goal.
Carlson lifted a backhand shot top-shelf over the shoulder of Zaba, who again appeared surprised to see a shot coming his way.
“It takes that pressure off. I didn’t even get a shot until I don’t know how many minutes into the game,” Elliott said. “Being up 2-0 is great.”
The second period followed Friday’s trend as each team launched just six shots in a penalty-laden 20 minutes.
After swallowing his whistle for most of Friday’s game and calling just 10 penalties in 65 minutes, referee Brad Albers whistled the two teams a combined 28 times for 81 minutes Saturday.
Colorado College knew it needed to score in those first two minutes of the third period, and the Tigers got their chances. However, Elliott made a nifty glove save on a shot from Brian Salcido, Wisconsin blocked a number of shots and the Badgers successfully staved off the power play.
“We had some chances on the five-on-three,” CC forward Brett Sterling said. “We just couldn’t get anything by them tonight.”
The Wisconsin solid definsive effort continued the rest of the game, allowing just one shot on net down the stretch.
Joe Pavelski iced the game with a power-play goal to put the Badgers up, 3-0, with six minutes left in the game, but what happened at the end took center stage.
With the final seconds winding down, Earl gathered the puck along the boards prepared to skate out the time and he was trailed by Tigers forward Scott Thauwald.
Thauwald may or may not have been looking to get one last hit on, but he didn’t get the chance, as Burish blindsided him with a shoulder that sent Thauwald into the boards and left him down on the ice.
“It was a bad hit. They need to take a look at it and review it, but I’m not going to say anything more than that,” Sterling said. “It was a clean, physical series up until that last play.”
It was just Thauwald’s second start of the season after missing 30 straight games dating back to a season-ending knee injury last January. He was seen on crutches after the game.
The officials did the best they could to quell the tempers and get the teams to line up for the hand shake. However, it didn’t take long for a Tiger player to get into it with Burish and the officials worked to separate the teams and send them to their locker rooms.
In the end, Burish was hit with a five-minute penalty for excessive roughing and a game disqualification, meaning he will have to sit out next Saturday’s game against Minnesota State.
“I guess all I want to say right now is I hope the kid’s okay,” Burish said. “I would never want to hurt anybody. I hope he’s all right.”
Lost in all of that was a shutout for Elliott, his first of the season, as he extended his streak of allowing two goals or less to 14 starts.
“It’s a great feeling,” Elliott said. “I’ve had chances all year, little one’s kept squeaking in.”
With the win, Wisconsin maintained a three-point lead over Minnesota atop the WCHA standings. The Badgers face Minnesota State in a Saturday/Sunday series next weekend.
For the Tigers, the loss drops them five points behind the Badgers with two games at hand. They will try to rebound from this weekend at home against Michigan Tech.