MADISON, Wis. — St. Cloud State goalie Bobby Goepfert had been on a roll all season long. Leading the conference in save percentage at 93 percent and allowing only 2.09 goals per game, Goepfert hadn’t allowed more than two goals in his last four contests.
Unfortunately for him, nothing could prepare the senior goalie for the Badgers give-and-go attack.
Wisconsin (14-15-2, 11-11-1 WCHA) scored three goals on the simple, hard-nosed play-two coming on nearly identical plays from Andrew Joudrey-and Brian Elliott turned in another solid performance against the Huskies (18-6-5, 12-6-5 WCHA), stopping 18 shots in a 3-1 Badger victory over fourth ranked St. Cloud State.
Wisconsin’s first such give-and go strike came at 9:18 in the first period off the stick of sophomore sensation Jack Skille. After passing the puck off to senior Andy Brandt, who led the odd-man rush into the Huskies’ zone, Skille skated to center ice and awaited Brandt’s return pass.
Brandt obliged, placing the return pass right on Skille’s stick. Anticipating a shot from Brandt, Goepfert couldn’t slide fast enough to cover the right post, as Skille’s seventh goal of the season snuck past Goepfert and put Wisconsin on the board first.
“The last three games, we’ve been able to create energy from our goal scoring [early] and continue forth,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said.
Wisconsin’s give-and-go tactics fooled Goepfert again just three minutes later, this time on the power play. With senior Ross Carlson stationed behind the net, Carlson received the pass from linemate Michael Davies. Carlson immediately fired the puck to a wide-open Joudrey, who buried the puck for a 2-0 Badger lead.
The power play goal was a welcomed sight for the Badgers, who entered the series 3-for-39 (7.6 percent) on the man advantage.
“This time of year, everybody knows how to play their own system,” Eaves said. “They aren’t going to give you a lot five-on-five. To be effective in the special teams is a big thing this time of year and heading into the playoffs . . . it’s all a matter of taking what the defense gives you and utilizing what is there.”
As good as the power play was to Wisconsin up until then, the man advantage foiled them midway through the second.
Off a Wisconsin shot from the point that ricocheted off Goepfert and a Badger skate, SCSU forward Nate Dey and defenseman Casey Borer found themselves on a 2-on-1 break with only Joudrey and goalie Brian Elliott in their way. Dey took the puck coast-to-coast, burying the puck on Elliott’s glove side for the short-handed goal, cutting the lead to one.
But whatever momentum St. Cloud garnered in the second quickly disappeared after junior Aaron Brocklehurst shoved Badger Jamie McBain into the boards with 14 seconds remaining in the period. Whistled for a five-minute major and a game misconduct, the Huskies were forced to play the first four-plus minutes of the third period on their heels.
“We take pride in being a disciplined a program and that was an unnecessary penalty that we deserve and shouldn’t have taken,” St. Cloud State Bob Motzko said.
With the Badgers’ suddenly productive power play having four minutes of uninterrupted advantage time, Wisconsin went back to what had worked previously: the give-and-go. Executing the same play that scored the Badgers second goal with the same personnel, Carlson this time threw the puck to Davies, who was positioned over Goepfert’s right shoulder.
Just like before, Davies fired to puck to Joudrey, who blasted the puck from the top of the key. With Goepfert screened, Joudrey had no problem scoring his second goal of the night and making the Huskies pay for the penalty.
“Both goals were the exact same,” Motzko said. “We drew that play up before we got here and we didn’t respond. Our penalty killing let us down.”
Although the Huskies were 11-3-4 when being out-shot by their opponents, St. Cloud couldn’t overcome 63 shots (26 of which reached Goepfert) from Wisconsin’s offense. As much as St. Cloud’s defense struggled, their offense couldn’t find a groove either, managing only 18 shots on Elliott who improved his record to 4-0-1 against the Huskies
“We made it really easy for [Wisconsin] to play defense tonight,” Motzko said. “They are very good at it, but there are things we need to do to get them out of it. We dumped the punk to Elliott like 15 times tonight and they would put it right back on offense. Dumb things like that. We’re making it real easy for the opposition to play against us right now.”
After scoring only four goals this season for Wisconsin, Joudrey, the senior captain, got some much-deserved recognition on senior weekend. With Joudrey doing much of his leadership in the locker room, the centerman’s two goals were the difference in Wisconsin’s upset victory over St. Cloud.
“Offensively, he gave us two huge goals,” Eaves said. “On the power play, he was put in the position where he was the trigger guy rather than being the quarterback. He was able to snap a couple of pucks in there.”