ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It almost seemed fitting that that the two top-ranked teams – No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Wisconsin – would need the last two minutes of play to decide the game.
With the clock ticking down, Adam Burish took a perfect feed from Robbie Earl, split the Michigan defense, and darted in on the breakaway. Matt Hunwick made a last ditch effort to swat the puck away, but Burish made no mistake, beating Noah Ruden five-hole and sending his team to 3-2 victory.
“We knew Michigan was going to be flying, No. 1 versus No. 2, and we knew it would be decided by a goal,” defenseman Tom Gilbert said. “Luckily, Burish is a quick guy and went down on the breakaway and finished for us.”
But while the Badgers made the last tally on the scoreboard count, it was the unsung defensive plays that kept the high-powered Michigan offensive at bay.
Goaltender Brian Elliott stopped 23 of 25 shots and held off a Michigan resurgence in the third period. After tallying just 11 shots through two periods, the Wolverines peppered the Badger netminder with 14 shots in the third. Elliott flinched only once, allowing the tying goal early in the third. After that, he stoned Michigan on every opportunity.
“Holding these guys to two goals, you gotta thank El for that,” Gilbert said. “He was everywhere. I don’t even think there was a net behind him; he stopped everything.”
Wisconsin hasn’t allowed more than two goals against in any game this season. And it was no different this weekend. The Badgers allowed a total of three goals against Michigan State and Michigan in the College Hockey Showcase, helping the Badgers to improve to 11-1-2 on the season.
The No. 1 ranked team in the nation didn’t look it at all this weekend, as Michigan dropped both games to No. 7 Minnesota and Wisconsin in the College Hockey Showcase. The Wolverines came in with a 9-1-1 record but failed to match their opponent’s intensity and strength for 60 minutes.
“It’s time for guys to take a peek in the mirror and start owning up,” Michigan captain Andrew Ebbett said. “We had a good first eleven games, but now we see what it’s like in the rest of the country, and those are two top-five teams right there. It’s time to wakeup and get back to the basics.”
Although the score was close through two periods, Wisconsin controlled play and capitalized on the few mistakes Michigan made.
After a scoreless opening frame, the Badgers finally put a goal up on the board 59 seconds into the second. Noah Ruden used his right arm to stop Jack Skille’s point shot but left a dangerous rebound in the crease. Ryan MacMurchy found the loose puck and deposited it in the empty net.
A miscue cost Michigan on Wisconsin’s second goal. David Rohlfs fanned on a pass to defensive partner Mark Mitera. Instead of rolling around the left boards, the puck bounced right on to the stick of Earl. Earl ripped a shot from the faceoff dot that sailed by Ruden midway through the period.
Tim Miller cut the Badger lead in half a minute later on a gritty individual effort. Miller dragged the puck all the way around the net, stuffing the wraparound behind Elliott. It was Miller’s first goal of the season.
While Wisconsin shut down the Michigan offense on almost every attempt, the Wolverines turned to their number one strength – the power play – to get the score tied in the third.
Jack Johnson slipped in from the point, ripping a shot from the low slot. Elliott made the initial save, but Brandon Naurato batted in the rebound. The Wolverines erupted in celebration on the ice, seemingly letting out the offensive frustration they had felt the entire game.
But Michigan’s final mistake was the most costly. The Wolverines’ top defensive pairing of Johnson and Hunwick failed to close out Burish on the breakaway.
Michigan was without the services of injured forward Brandon Kaleniecki, who missed his first game after playing 108 consecutive games for the Wolverines. Kaleniecki is ailing from multiple injuries, including a hand and rib problem.