MADISON, Wis — The No.2 Wisconsin Badgers did everything they could to let Minnesota-Duluth back into the game. The Bulldogs just waited until the last five minutes to accept the invitation.
In what was a penalty filled contest on both sides of the puck, Minnesota Duluth (1-0-2, 0-0-1 WCHA) scored the tying goal late in the third period and managed to deadlock the Badgers (2-1-2, 1-1-1 WCHA) into a 2-2 tie Friday night..
Wisconsin had numerous opportunities to put the Bulldogs away but could never cash in. Twice when up by a goal, Wisconsin was able to beat freshman goalie Alex Stalock with superb puck movement, only to watch their shots bang off the post and shoot out of harm’s reach.
The Badgers also didn’t help their chances by not staying out of the penalty box. Wisconsin was whistled for nine penalties after taking a 2-1 lead and never could retain the momentum they had generating in the second.
“When you’re playing with a lead, you can’t take your foot of the gas pedal in this league,” senior captain Andrew Joudrey said. “We played some of our best hockey [late] but couldn’t get the job done.”
If the Badgers weren’t going to seal the deal, Minnesota Duluth wasn’t about to wait around to let Wisconsin regain their composure. On the power play with just under four minutes remaining in regulation, Bulldog defenseman Josh Meyers was able to clean up Matt Niskanen’s a fellow blueliner shot and get the puck past UW goalie Brian Elliott to tie the score.
Although Wisconsin came out firing in overtime (including ringing their second pipe of the night), Duluth was able to block the Badgers’ attempts, clear the zone and hang out for their first point in Madison since March 2004.
“The game went as we expected with hard play, tight checking and blocked shots,” Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin said. “We had some chances early on and had some power play opportunities but ended up giving them some power play goals. It was just a battle and it was a good point, going into the third period going down 2-1 on the road.”
Wisconsin squandered the win after successfully building momentum through the second period based on their special teams. The Badgers jumped on the board first when sophomore Tom Gorowsky scored his first goal as a Badger off a feed from freshman Michael Davies that beat Stalock on the near side for the early advantage.
After Duluth’s Mason Raymond scored his second goal of the season to tie the score, Wisconsin answered with another power play goal started once again by Davies. Off a shot from Gorowsky, the rookie winger crashed the middle and fired a shot into that congestion in front of the net. The puck caromed off Stalock and bounced right to Joudrey, who fired a shot from the point that got passed a screened Stalock to put Wisconsin back on top. Joudrey, Gorowsky and Davies all had multiple point nights for the Badgers as Wisconsin went into the locker room for the second intermission with a lead for the first time all season.
The Badgers responded with their lead by coming out flat and couldn’t find their niche on the ice.
“We didn’t play on our toes, we played on our heels,” Eaves said. “That’s a lesson in itself when playing with a lead to keep doing the same things and be intelligent in certain areas of the game. It’s the first time we have had to do that this year . . . and I guess we weren’t ready for it.”
One of the more intriguing battles was the one between the pipes tonight, as fans were treated to two drastically different goaltending styles. On the Wisconsin side, fans had been accustomed to with senior Brian Elliott using his workman-like style to stop 22 of 24 shots on the night, including robbing Duluth’s Nick Kemp on a clean breakaway.
In Duluth’s goal however, Stalock put on an adventurous show, constantly wandering out of the crease with Badgers in his zone and attempting to boost the offense by shooting pucks down the boards for his wings. Even with Wisconsin on the power play, Stalock was not hesitant to leave the crease in an attempt to help his defensemen clear the zone. Even with senior Josh Johnson on the bench, Sandelin had stuck with the young goalie because of the unique assets he brings to the table.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Sandelin said. “We’ve heard about [Stalock's style] from our fans. He’s a freshman and we know what he can do. It’s just a matter of everyone getting on the same page. He’s a guy that can get pucks up in transition and get pucks out and it’s hard when one goalie does and one doesn’t. We just have to get use to it.”
Although Eaves admires Stalock’s unique style of play, he is more than happy to have his goaltender play his usual stationary style.
“I much rather have our style of goaltending than go with there’s,” Eaves said. “Young Mr. Stalock stopped the puck. You can see how quick and active he is, but it is a little bit of an adventure. I know as a coach, I probably would have a few more grey hairs with that style.”
While Wisconsin looks at the tie as a disappointment, the Duluth locker room was looking at the positives. Much like the Badgers in recent weeks, the Bulldogs looked out-of-sorts and turnover prone early, only to regain composure and get a late goal in the game that changed the outcome.
“We threw the puck away a lot and looked disorganized at times, but we got the biggest one at the right time,” Sandelin said. “I like the way we battled back and stayed with it. You need to count on those chances when you get it and we buried it.”
Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth wrap up their two-game series tomorrow night at the Kohl Center. The puck drops at 7:07 p.m. CDT.