DENVER — The Wisconsin Badgers entered Saturday’s game 0-3 against the Denver Pioneers this season, having lost 15 of their last 19 games against Denver. They were determined not to get swept, and put in a dominating effort in shutting out the Pioneers 4-0.
It was the first time the Pioneers had been shut out since December 10, 2005.
The Badgers immediately put the Pioneers on the defensive, getting a goal at the 54-second mark of the first period. It started as a simple breakout, as the puck came out to Ross Carlson on the left side boards at the hashmarks. Looking up ice, Carlson spotted Michael Davies streaking up the right side and fed a perfect cross-ice pass, hitting him as Davies reached the Pioneer blue line. Davies passed to Ben Street in the middle of the ice, and he one-timed the pass high stick side past Pioneer goalie Glenn Fisher.
“We always talk about having a great start,” said Badger coach Mike Eaves. “Last home game, we got two goals in the first 40 seconds against Providence, and statistics tell that when you get that first goal you have a better chance of winning, so it is very important.”
The Pioneers had a couple of chances on the power play, but, unlike Friday night’s game, couldn’t get shots on Badger goalie Brian Elliott. The Pioneers’ best chance came when Tom May, streaking down the left side, just missed connecting with Tyler Ruegsegger as he broke for the far post.
The Badgers, however, had no trouble pressuring the Pioneers. At times, the Pioneers had difficulty even getting the puck out of their own end, making sloppy clearing passes that the Badger defense picked off at the blue line to keep the forecheck going. The Badgers outshot the Pioneers 17-5, and only Fisher’s brilliance in net kept the game from turning into a blowout. Fisher shut the door on several excellent chances, including a point blank shot from Carlson on a rebound of Street’s shot from the left side.
“Our start was the exact opposite of how we wanted to start,” said Pioneers’ coach George Gwozdecky. “Our whole start to the game was disappointing. I really thought our team was ready to go tonight. As lackluster in some areas of our game as we were last night, I thought our team was much more prepared to go, and I was fooled obviously.”
The Pioneers started stronger in the second period. Adrian Veideman picked up a rebound on his backhand and just lifted it over the crossbar on a power play. Just as the penalty ended, Badger Davis Drewiske streaked down the middle and took a pass from Carlson and fired a shot that hit Fisher’s glove and just trickled wide.
Midway through the period, the Badgers used their power play to build a cushion as the Pioneers started to lose their cool. It started when Cody Brookwell hauled down Ben Grotting on the left side. Grotting crashed into Fisher as he got up, and Fisher was shaken up on the play. Brookwell was called, but Grotting was not.
On the ensuing power play, the Pioneers appeared more concerned with being physical than blocking the lanes, and the Badgers jumped on it, as Kyle Klubertanz, playing the right point, froze Fisher and the Pioneer defense and fed a perfect pass to Tom Gorowsky on the left-side goal post. He had an open net at the 10-minute mark of the period..
Less than a minute later, the Badgers broke into the Pioneers zone and Mike Handza was forced to trip Andrew Joudrey to prevent him from skating in alone on Fisher. It made no difference, however, as on the power play Matthew Ford rifled a slap shot high glove side at 11:59 past Fisher as Fisher was dropping to his knees. Fisher did not appear to be screened on the play.
“It was actually the Klubertanz unit that really set that table at a time of the game when I thought DU was starting to take over a little bit,” said Eaves. “The power play got things going for us by scoring a couple of big goals.”
The Pioneers had an excellent chance to get back in the game, getting a two-minute 5-on-3 power play at 15:04. However, the Pioneers were unable to get the puck down low. Their best chance came when Brock Trotter slid a pass to Ryan Dingle through the crease. Dingle, with nothing but net to shoot at, hit his one-timer over the crossbar.
“We had a lot of good looks,” said Gwozdecky. “Elliott played great. We would certainly like to be more of an offensive team, but we’re not. There’s a certain passing lane, shooting lane, that we’re looking for. I thought the 5-on-3 was the most patience we’ve shown in a long time. They packed it down around their net, and it’s tough to get the puck in the scoring area. They did a good job of shutting down the shooting lanes.”
You would have thought the Pioneers would come out strong in the third period, but 32 seconds in, they took a penalty for too many men. The Badger power play was negated shortly thereafter when Gorowsky was called for interference. While skating 4-on-4, Gwozdecky pulled Fisher in an attempt to wake up his team. It almost backfired when the Badgers rang a shot off the crossbar.
The Badgers continued to pressure Fisher. Grotting had an excellent chance when he found himself alone in front of the net taking a pass from behind the net, but Fisher got the big save.
The Pioneers continued to struggle on the power play. Dingle in particular was snakebit. At the eight minute mark, on a 4-on-4, Gwozdecky again pulled Fisher, and the Pioneers set up well in the offensive zone. Trotter again fed Dingle on the far side post, but Dingle’s shot at the open net went wide left.
Andy Brandt added an empty net goal at 16:09. “Hopefully, we take momentum from this,” said Eaves. “Going into next weekend against a real good Gophers team, we could use that momentum for sure.”