MADISON, Wis. — The U.S. Under-18 Team gave No. 1 Wisconsin a scare at the Kohl Center Friday night, but thanks to a five-goal third period, the Badgers escaped with a 6-5 exhibition victory.
The Badgers snagged their only lead of the game with less than a minute remaining in regulation with their third power-play goal of the period to avoid their second upset in as many Fridays.
“One thing about this group is they’re pretty fearless,” U-18 head coach John Hynes said. “They go in and they play, and they play to win. It doesn’t matter who they play, they’re going to take it to them.”
The Under-18 Team jumped out to a two goal lead thanks to a strong first period which saw it outshoot Wisconsin 13-5.
“They were more ready than we were,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said. “They were psyched, they were excited.”
Wisconsin rookie Shane Connelly got his first start of the season in net, and though things didn’t go his way — he had 19 saves and five goals against — he was just happy to see some action.
“I was pleased with the win,” Connelly said. “I thought [there was] some stuff I could’ve done a little bit better. I kind of went back to my old habits.”
The Badgers came back out in the second and began a barrage on U.S. netminder Joe Palmer. Wisconsin outshot the U-18 Team 46-11 over the final 40 minutes.
UW put 20 shots on net to its opponents’ three in the second period, but the teams traded goals and the U-18 Team entered the third period with a 3-1 lead.
The Badgers jumped right back in the game with two goals in the first 2:35 of the final stanza and the two teams scored goals back and forth the rest of the way, with Wisconsin’s Joe Pavelski getting the last laugh with a goal on the man-advantage with 56 seconds remaining.
“One of the benefits of tonight, I thought, was the work we were able to get on the power play,” Eaves said.
The Badgers finished 4-of-9 on the man-advantage.
Pavelski had three points on the night, while linemate Robbie Earl had four assists — although those statistics do not count toward regular-season totals.
Future Badger Blake Geoffrion was one of three U-18 players with a goal and assist.
“It was definitely an awesome experience and I can’t wait to be here next year,” Geoffrion said.
U.S. goalie Joe Palmer played admirably, finishing with 45 saves, including 40 over the final two periods, but was saddled with the loss.
Eaves said in the future he would reconsider scheduling an exhibition at this point in the year, as his players were sidetracked from hockey this week with impending final exams and papers.
“It’s really a tough week,” Eaves said. “I was amazed at the workload they had going into this last week here.”
Wisconsin now has two weeks off before hosting the Badger Hockey Showdown.