COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — If only Brian Salcido had read the signs. With his opponent decked out in its road red jerseys, the Tigers defenseman still decided to “go” for an ill-advised check from behind seven minutes into the Saturday game between Colorado College and Wisconsin.
The penalty ended up costing the home team in more ways than one or three. The Badgers fired home four goals while on the uninterruptible power play to jump start what was just the beginning of a 9-1 romp.
The Badgers capitalized almost immediately on the major power play, as Joe Pavelski’s shot from just inside the blue line was redirected by Andrew Joudrey past Colorado College goaltender Matt Zaba.
Wisconsin scored its second goal nine minutes into the frame. Ryan MacMurchy unleashed a rocket of a slap shot from the top of the left circle that beat Zaba cleanly to give the Badgers a 2-0 lead.
“We got that first one on the first shot, and that broke them down a little bit,” said Pavelski. “Then we got the next one and forced them to sag back. It opened up so much space, and we could do no wrong.”
Tom Gilbert, a goal-scorer in last night’s contest, collected the Badgers third goal on the Salcido infraction less than two minutes later. A Robbie Earl shot ricocheted to the assistant captain, who was all alone on the far post with an open net. The rebound goal pushed the lead to three.
“This was one of those nights when the puck just went into the net,” said Earl. “We’ve got a good power play and we get shots on net, but tonight they went in.”
Wisconsin made it 4-0, again on the five-minute power play, at 11:17 of the first. This time it was Andrew Joudrey who buried a rebound from the high slot. The goal chased Zaba, who made only four saves on eight shots, most of which were of the “high quality” variety.
“To say the game was over would be a pretty broad statement,” said Earl. “But we had the game in our hands at that point, and we executed. Any team would be hit pretty hard by that.”
Even when taking penalties, Wisconsin couldn’t lose. Upon exiting the box after a slashing penalty, Jack Skille received a pass from MacMurchy and skated in all alone on new Colorado College goaltender Chris Kawano. The junior netminder made the initial save, but Skille buried the rebound to give the Badgers a 5-0 lead.
Earl extended the Badger lead to 6-0 16 minutes into the first on a bang-bang play. Wisconsin captain Adam Burish sent a crisp centering pass from behind the Colorado College net to Earl, who was streaking through the crease. Earl backhanded the puck low to the glove side of Kawano for his first of two tallies in the game.
The Tigers finally got on the board at 8:28 of the second. Marty Sertich streaked in up the left wing and fired a slap shot just under the glove of Wisconsin goalie Brian Elliot for the senior’s 11th tally of the season.
Wisconsin answered right back, however, just over a minute later. Ross Carlson’s shot from the slot sailed high to the stick side of the Tiger netminder and into the net. Kawano, who had never surrendered a goal in limited action during his career, allowed five goals on 20 shots on the night.
The Badgers notched their eighth goal of the night midway through the third period, momentarily marking their highest output of the season. Earl was credited for the tally, his second. Wisconsin’s Pavelski collected his first goal of the night and 13th of the season with four minutes remaining to finish the night’s scoring. The eight-goal loss marked the largest loss for Colorado College (17-8-1, 9-6-1 WCHA) since a 12-3 defeat at the hands of Northern Michigan on Jan. 30, 1993.
“You go out expecting to play average and try to do the little things,” said Pavelski. “When you do that, these kinds of nights happen.”
Wisconsin (18-2-2, 13-1-2) remains undefeated on the road this season at 9-0-1, a fact that they believe is not a coincidence.
“On the road you feel more like a team,” explained Earl. “We seriously feel like it’s a business trip. There’s structure that’s involved with being on the road, and that keeps us focused.”
Even with the gigantic victory and a huge eight-point lead in the league, Eaves wants his team to focus on getting even stronger as the season progresses.
“We have the knowledge that we need to get to the top of the mountain, and tonight was just a good day of climbing,” concluded Eaves.
As for Saturday night, if Salcido had known that red meant stop, the game might have lived up to its billing.
“The penalty gave us an opportunity, and we took advantage of it,” said Eaves. “That was the turning point in the game. We had been seeing good things from that unit, and tonight they cashed in.”