MADISON, Wis. — After being embarrassed on their home ice the night before, sophomore Jack Skille said that tonight’s game was a must win and the Badgers weren’t going to get back to playing ‘Wisco’ hockey.
With Skille leading the offensive charge, the Badgers didn’t roll over without a fight literally.
In a game that saw 108 penalty minutes and a five-minute brawl in the second period, Skille notched his first career hat trick, as the Badgers managed a split against Mankato, winning 3-1 in the series finale.
Unlike the night before, the Badgers came out swinging, firing 17 shots on goal in the first period. After having only four shots on goal the night before, the Badgers were primed to get on the scoreboard early.
After Wisconsin’s second power play expired, Michael Davies took advantage of the commotion in front of the net. Davies picked up the loose puck from behind the net and scored on the wrap around, throwing the puck past Mike Zacharias, who found the puck too late to stop it.
“They came up way harder than us and we knew they would after what happened last night,” Captain Travis Morin said. “We didn’t match their intensity.”
Considering the Mavericks only have two shots at Connelly, spent 10 minutes in the penalty box and Wisconsin hit the pipe on an open net, Minnesota State was lucky to escape the first down only one.
Then, with time winding down in the second period, the controversy started.
With time winding down and the puck trickling out of Wisconsin’s own zone, assistant captain Jake Dowell, seeing Skille start to break down ice, left his skates and used his stick to poke the puck ahead to his teammate.
As he broke down ice with a Maverick defenseman Chad Brownlee on his back, Skille lost control of the puck, only to regain his composure and backhand the puck past Zacharias for the Badgers second score of the evening.
However, the goal left the Maverick’s bench in an uproar. As Skille regained himself, he tripped Brownlee with his stick, giving Skille the wide-open chance to score the goal as Brownlee watched from his back on the ice.
“It was pretty obvious what happened and it was pretty much the ref’s digression,” Brownlee said. “If he didn’t see it, I am sure that’s why he didn’t call it.”
“The ref said he didn’t see, that he was behind the call,” Morin added.
Then the melee began.
With under a minute remaining in the period, Maverick center Trevor Bruess checked Badger freshman Blake Geoffrion into the boards in front of Minnesota State’s bench. Geoffrion took exception and the brawl commenced. Separate fights broke out all over the ice between the two teams, including a verbal shouting and finger pointing confrontation between the team’s two head coaches.
After the game, both coaches kept a tight lip on their perspective views of the incident.
“I didn’t see it,” Mavericks head coach Troy Jutting said, visibly biting his tongue. “I didn’t know who was involved. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I was getting the next line up card and didn’t see it,” Wisconsin’s Mike Eaves said. “I’ll have to go look at it on video.”
When everything got sorted out, 72 minutes and six misconduct penalties were handed out, with three players from each team heading to the box.
Minnesota State was hit the hardest with the penalties, losing three forwards, including leading scorer Morin, to misconduct penalties. Additionally losing forward Mick Berge on the first shift of the game, Mankato was left with an offensive shortage for half of the third period.
“We lost Berge on the first shift into the game and three forwards got 10-minute penalties,” Jutting said. “We were down to seven forwards for a good 12-13 minute stretch and they had trouble keeping their legs under them.”
Even without Morin on the ice, the Mavericks finally found a way to get the puck past Connelly. Failing to convert on their four previous power play attempts, Minnesota State cashed in on their fifth try, as Joel Hanson banked the puck off the left post and in.
Whatever momentum Minnesota State was starting to generate was quickly flattened a mere 15 seconds later, once again compliments of Skille. With the puck deep in the Mavericks’ zone, Skille was wide-open in front of the net as he received the pass from defenseman Davis Drewiske. The future Blackhawk doesn’t miss from there, burying the puck to get the Wisconsin lead back to two.
It was a critical goal for the Badgers that seemingly deflated Mankato.
“That was huge. We have to do a better job of getting back in the game and not leaving someone wide open in front of the net,” Jutting said.
With Morin sitting on the bench for the next nine minutes, State could only manage two shots on Connelly and couldn’t seem to find a rhythm offensively. Skille finished off the scoring with an empty netter with under a minute remaining, sending Badger hats flying onto the ice.
“It was a fun night. I can’t remember the last time I had a hat trick,” Skille said.
Shane Connelly stopped 17 of 18 shots on the evening for the win in his first start since December 31. On the season, the sophomore goalie is 3-0-1, compared to starter Brian Elliott’s record of 8-13-1.
“I see him stopping more pucks, whether it’s breakaways or drills,” Eaves said. “His teammates will tell you that it’s harder and harder to score pucks on him.”
The victory was a total turn around for the Badgers after a dismal game the night before.
“We went out there and played relentless from the start,” Skille said. “We had a great start to the game and played the full 60 minutes.”
Next weekend, the Badgers take to the road to challenge Colorado College in the two team’s only meeting of the season, while Minnesota State returns home to host Michigan Tech in their only meeting of the season.