GREEN BAY, Wis. — If Ryan MacMurchy watched the rest of the regional opener between Bemidji State and Wisconsin from the locker room to which he was relegated after his game misconduct, he did so with a giant smile.
After MacMurchy earned a five-minute major and a game misconduct for checking from behind at 11:13, Wisconsin killed the major and carried that momentum through the rest of the game, flying on the wings of a Joe Pavelski hat trick and Brian Elliott’s shutout to a 4-0 win.
“It was probably the biggest momentum swing of the game,” senior Tom Gilbert said of the five-minute penalty kill. “It was the first period, the score was tied, and we knew that we had to get these five minutes.”
The Badgers got on the board shortly after killing the major with Pavelski’s first goal of the afternoon, just over 17 minutes into the game. Andrew Joudrey’s shot on goal was deflected up in the air, and upon descending to the ice, was planted through Layne Sedevie’s five-hole by Pavelski, who was camped out at the left circle.
“It just came down fluttering, and I was just waiting for it to hit the ice,” Pavelski said. “It just kind of stuck on my stick once it did.”
After that goal, Bemidji State had almost no chance.
“You have a five-minute power play, and you don’t get a shot, that does deflate you,” Bemidji head coach Tom Serratore said. “The key against a team like Wisconsin is you have to score first because you can’t play catchup against them.”
That reality became even more clear 26 seconds into the second frame when Pavelski notched his second score of the night, an unassisted effort off the draw. After winning the faceoff, the sophomore skated toward the goal from the left circle. He faked a shot on the near side, held on, and closed the deal with a backhand into a wide-open net.
With a 2-0 lead, Wisconsin settled in and dominated the second period. The Badgers outshot Bemidji 23-4, blocking 10 Beaver shots. After a Jake Dowell goal at 17:30 in the second, the situation looked dire for Bemidji State.
Things didn’t get much better for the Beavers. Pavelski scored his third goal of the afternoon, getting the first hat trick of his collegiate career.
“[Good scorers] have to have the ability to make something out of nothing, and Joe has that ability,” Eaves said of his standout forward. “He has the ability to take what’s given and become an effective offensive player.”
While Pavelski seemed like a one-man team at times, it was special teams that did Bemidji State in. The Beavers failed to take advantage of their power plays, going 0-for-5 with the man-advantage, including the five-minute power play in the first. On the flip side, the Badgers scored on two of their eight chances.
“Throughout the game, we couldn’t get it done on the power play,” Beaver captain Jean-Guy Gervais said. “That came back to bite us.”
The Beavers also had Hobey Baker candidate Elliott to contend with. While facing the boredom of only six shots in the first two periods, he stopped whatever came his way, finishing the game with 15 saves and a shutout.
“These kinds of games are tough to play in,” Elliott said. “When you know you’re not going to get a lot of shots, you have to stay mentally back there.”
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves was impressed with Elliott’s ability to keep his head in the game despite the lack of offensive threats by Bemidji State.
“Brian, in those moments when we weren’t as good as we wanted to be, he kept his focus,” Eaves said. “That’s a tough game for a young goaltender, to only have 15 shots and keep his focus.”
The rest of the Badgers also maintained focus. After watching Minnesota lose the previous night to fourth seed Holy Cross, the Badgers addressed the importance of maintaining focus as the top seeded team in the tournament.
“Everybody is here for a reason,” Burish said. “If you look past a team early, they can hurt you just like Minnesota.”
The Badgers seemed only to let up in the third period, but even then they allowed only nine shots on goal.
In getting 15 shots on goal for the game, the Beavers avoided setting a dubious record for fewest shots in NCAA regional action. That record is held, interestingly enough, by Wisconsin, set in 1994.
In the dressing room, MacMurchy breathed a sigh of relief, despite his lack of doubt in his teammates.
“I had complete confidence the guys were going to win either way,” MacMurchy said. “I wanted to be in the game and feeling like you’re helping the team.”
With the win, Wisconsin faces Cornell Sunday at 4 p.m. CST at the Resch Center in the Midwest Regional final.