MADISON, Wis. — The goalie that was making his debut was solid, but the man between the pipes for the defending champions was better.
All the talk coming into the series between No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 19 Denver was about UW freshman Shane Connelly making his debut, and he played admirably.
But it was Denver junior Glenn Fisher who made a variety of big saves and kept the Badgers — who scored nine goals in their last game — off the scoreboard in a 1-0 shutout at the sold-out Kohl Center.
“We thought there was no better time to make a statement than now,” sophomore Geoff Paukovich said.
“They showed up for a big game and we came out flat,” Wisconsin sophomore Joe Pavelski said. “I think we might have got a little too far ahead of ourselves.”
Fisher, who was pulled after giving up four goals in less than 30 minutes last Friday against St. Cloud State, was the MVP of the game a week later. He stopped 12 shots in the first period, but really made his presence felt in the second and third when he forced himself to come up big.
“It was just a good road game, they didn’t give up a lot,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said of the Pioneer’s effort. “We had some people that didn’t play as well as they can.”
Up one goal late in the second, Fisher found himself out of position with Wisconsin in striking range. Sprawled out in the crease, he somehow found a way to get his leg pad up to stop a Ross Carlson wrister.
“I was out of position,” Fisher said. “That’s when you have to make big saves. It wasn’t pretty, but I got it out of the net.”
In the third period he again misplayed a shot somewhat when he decided not to cover the puck. Pavelski got a shot on moments later, but Fisher slid back across the net, taking away the bottom half of the goal and preserving the shutout.
“Our team stole one tonight,” Fisher said when asked if he thought he himself had stolen the contest.
He finished with 28 saves on the night.
Connelly was not so lucky. While he never found himself out of position in the game, Jeff Paukovich made him pay with a well placed shot.
Less than two minutes after UW’s Matt Ford narrowly missed a goal when his shot caromed off the post, the Pioneers took the lead.
J.D. Corbin picked up the puck behind the Badger net and found Geoff Paukovich alone point blank. He went top-shelf on the freshman goalie’s glove side, but Connelly never really had a chance to stop the puck as the play developed behind him.
“It was all Corbin,” Paukovich said. “I was just in the right place at the right time.”
And what better time could there be for him to get his first goal in 28 games.
“It was a nice monkey to get off my back,” the sophomore center said. “It was a step in the right direction.”
Though it seemed highly unlikely that Denver would beat the Badgers with just one goal, that’s exactly what it did as Paukovich’s goal turned out to be the only one of the contest for either side.
Connelly made 22 saves in the loss.
The Badger power play, which was so proficient last weekend at Colorado College, looked good again, but UW’s effort went unrewarded.
“We still created chances, we just couldn’t find the back of the net,” Eaves said.
As Paukovich said, the Pioneers did make a big statement with the win, their second in a row following a three-game losing streak which saw them split with St. Cloud last weekend.
“When we rise to the occasion we’re as good as anybody,” Paukovich said.
For Fisher, the game served as a warning signal to the other teams in the league.
“Look out,” he said.
The win helped Denver keep pace with Minnesota for second place in the WCHA. Both teams now have 22 points and are six behind the league-leading Badgers.
Even though Wisconsin saw a nine-goal drop off from its latest outing, it was not as frustrated as some may have expected.
“You’re not going to have many nights when you score nine goals,” Pavelski said. “There’s going to be nights when you don’t score any too. We’ve just got to come out tomorrow.”
The two teams will cap off their series tomorrow night in front of another sell-out crowd.