MADISON, Wis. — Leave it to Robbie Earl to score a big goal at a crucial point in a game for Wisconsin.
After 40 minutes of stalemate hockey thanks to two of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s best goaltenders, the junior winger-perhaps the only player on the Badger roster worthy of being called flashy-broke the deadlock with the only goal of a 1-0 UW shutout over St. Cloud State.
Earl snagged the puck to the left and behind the Husky net, skated it around back for what looked to be a wrap-around attempt. Instead, he pulled the puck away from the post and snapped off an odd-angled wrister that found its way under the left arm of St. Cloud State goalie Bobby Goepfert.
“I just saw the goal open short-side so I just went for it,” Earl said. “Could he have saved it? Maybe, but I’ll take the goal.”
Through the recent period of Wisconsin inconsistency, his offense has been one of few constants. The goal extended his streak of games with at least one point to nine.
But that goal and the win meant much more to the Badger team than it did to its second leading scorer.
It may prove to be just what the doctor ordered for busting UW out of its recent funk. It was Wisconsin’s first victory in four games and just its fourth in its last 12 games since starting the year 18-2-2.
“We’re a team that is not feeling well, we’re a little bit sick and tonight, the game itself, the outcome, was like a V-12 shot,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said.
“They wore us down physically. Our defensemen were just pooped at the end,” St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko said. “We just couldn’t sustain anything in our offensive zone. That was it.”
While the players admitted that one game is not enough to make the statement that they are back, it was definitely a step in the right direction after hitting rock bottom at Minnesota State a week ago.
“I don’t think after one game you can say we’re all the way back to where we were,” Burish said. “But we’re getting there.”
The Badgers back-to-the-basics motto for the week appeared to work.
Thanks to back-to-back shifts made up of grit, hard work and determination, Wisconsin snagged the momentum early in the second frame after a lackluster opening 20 minutes.
“I saw the team start to emerge starting in the early second period,” Eaves said. “The building started to come alive again and the guys started getting back that feeling of knowing ‘This is us.’”
And not only did goaltender Brian Elliott return to his true form, stopping all 27 shots that came his way, the defensemen in front of him did the same, blocking 12 shots on the night themselves.
“I felt pretty comfortable. When you get back into the net after being out for five weeks it’s obviously going to be tough,” Elliott said. “As far as shots, I’d have to take a look at the game tape, but I had to make a couple saves that were tough.”
“[Assistant] coach [Mark] Osiecki said ‘He made a lot of subtle good saves, if there’s such a thing,’” Eaves said. “We definitely saw glimpses of the Brian that we knew before.”
But while Elliott began to look like the player that he was, he may not have even been the best goalie in the Kohl Center Friday night.
For starters, Elliott saw very few great scoring chances, but the more-tested Goepfert also had a solid night between the pipes for the Huskies, stopping 25 shots.
Once again, it came back to offense for the Huskies. Motzko said he’s been working with the idea that getting three goals on a night should be good enough to get the job done.
The Huskies were victorious in just one of their previous five games before coming to Madison. Not coincidentally, that was the only game where they scored three goals or more. Friday night, they couldn’t even muster one tally.
“We’ve had no trouble getting to two [goals], but we couldn’t even do that tonight,” Motzko said.
They will try to turn their offensive struggles around in the series finale Saturday night, while Wisconsin will try to use its momentum to put together a run, albeit a small one, to end the regular season.