MADISON, Wis. — Before he even took the ice in his first home game as a Wisconsin Badger, highly touted freshmen Kyle Turris received a standing ovation from over 11,000 fans at the Kohl Center.
After tallying four points last weekend, Turris put on a bravura performance, giving Badger loyalists another reason to stand and applaud the youngster.
Turris set up Wisconsin’s first goal in the first minute of the game and scored Wisconsin’s fourth and fifth goals of the evening, propelling the Badgers to a 7-2 win Friday night.
“We wanted to come off to a great start and we did that,” Turris said. “We didn’t anticipate it to be 7-2, but we wanted to give the fans something to cheer about early and make sure we kept Morris out of the game.”
With Turris’ two goals, the freshman has scored in all three of Wisconsin’s games, moving his season point total to eight, the best in the nation.
“I think we saw (tonight) what he’s capable of doing,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. “We saw last week to a degree and he just carried on this weekend. Underlined with his goal at the end of second period, he has that gift.”
Turris was not the only freshman to contribute on the night, as defenseman Ryan McDonagh scored his first goal as a Badger late in the first period. In three games, Wisconsin’s seven freshmen have been on a tear, scoring six goals and 19 points.
“They are in a position, these young people, to be able to play because we need them to play,” Eaves said. “We’re hoping they have those contributions offensively and we hope it continues.”
Wisconsin (2-1-0) wasted no time jumping on visiting Robert Morris (2-1-0) just 25 seconds into the game. Grabbing the loose puck, Turris led the rush along the boards and found defenseman Kyle Klubertanz wide open about the right faceoff circle. After an initial bobble, the senior defenseman fired a one-timer and, with the puck deflecting off junior Ben Street’s stick, found the back of the net for an early Wisconsin lead.
The Badgers were far from done in the first period, adding a power play goal from Klubertanz and another from McDonagh off a rebound from goalie Christian Boucher. When the first period ended, the Badgers had outshot the Colonials 10-2, with the visitor’s first shot coming nine minutes into the contest.
“I think we were a little in awe,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley. “We have to have experience playing in these atmospheres and we watched a little bit to start the game.”
After Robert Morris forward Jason Townsley got the Colonials on the board with his third goal on the season to cut the lead to 3-1, Turris snatched the momentum right back, as he drilled a one timer past Boucher with only four seconds remaining in the second period.
“We dictated the pace we wanted to play in the second period and if we wouldn’t have given that goal with four seconds left, we get out of here and go into the third down 3-1,” Schooley said. “That goal was a back breaker.”
From there, the floodgates opened for the Badgers, as Turris added his second of night, followed by center Blake Geoffrion and finishing with Street scoring his second of the night against backup goaltender Wes Russell to complete the rout.
“They were obviously the much better hockey team,” Schooley said. “They have a lot skill and talent and we stood around and watched them. They were a very good hockey game and we watched them be a very good hockey game.”
Despite all the scoring, however, the loudest ovation of the night was directed at the play of Wisconsin’s penalty kill, particularly the performance they put on early in the second period. Just six seconds after Wisconsin defenseman Jamie McBain was sent to the box for slashing, fellow defenseman Davis Drewiske was whistled for checking from behind, forcing the Badgers to play 5-on-3 hockey for nearly two minutes.
Despite six quality attempts by Robert Morris’ second line, the Badgers did not buckle, as Shane Connelly and his defenders stonewalled the visitors’ every attempt on the two-man advantage.
With thanks to Wisconsin’s defense, Robert Morris did not generate any momentum all night on the man advantage, finishing the night 1-for-11 on the power play. The Badgers, meanwhile, finished the night 4-for-9.
“We’re learning under the gun,” Eaves said. “We have so many young people that we’re actually having live-action practice. We’ll be able to take that, look at some video and, hopefully, build on what happened out there.”
After producing a program-low 10 goals and 59 points in 41 games last season, Wisconsin’s defensemen have already collected three goals and 16 points in three games this season.
“Every team needs the help of the defensemen,” Klubertanz said. “During practice this summer, we keyed on [scoring] and through three games, we’re helping our team out.”
Wisconsin and Robert Morris will face off in game two of the weekend series tomorrow night at the Kohl Center with face-off scheduled for 7:07 CDT.