MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin freshman Podge Turnbull had been so close to getting his first collegiate goal three separate times on Saturday night.
After twice watching the puck deflect to other teammates, Turnbull thought he had his first goal midway through the second period, even raising his hands in celebration, only to watch the puck clank off the post.
Although disappointed, the young freshman had to wait only a couple more minutes to score, changing the entire complexion of the game in the process as an added bonus.
With Robert Morris scoring consecutive goals to close to 3-2, Turnbull found the back of the net, making him the seventh Badger to score his first collegiate goal this season. The goal sparked four more unanswered goals, as the Badgers completed a sweep with an 8-2 victory.
“As well as we were playing, it was only 3-2,” said Badgers’ head coach Mike Eaves, whose team improved to 3-1 on the season. “Getting that fourth goal was really something we needed at the time as we went from there.”
It was the second night in the row that Robert Morris had crawled back into the game, only to have the Badgers kill the Colonials’ momentum. Friday night saw freshman Kyle Turris score with four seconds left in the second to extend the Wisconsin lead back to three. It was that goal, along with Turnbull’s goal, that Colonials’ head coach Derek Schooley admitted were the two backbreakers to his team this weekend.
“We’re playing well seven minutes and we had a long defensive zone shift on,” Schooley said. “For some reason, we tried to make a cute play that turns into a turnover and it snowballed from there.”
Early on, the puck seemingly found every Wisconsin player’s stick except Turnbull, which was evident by the Badgers first three goals.
Trying to beat Colonials’ netminder Wes Russell on a wraparound, Turnbull was denied when his attempt deflected off Colonials’ defenseman Denny Urban’s skate. Instead of the puck bouncing into the corner, it caromed right to UW center Blake Geoffrion, who buried it into the back of the net.
“I’ve got to give credit to my linemates, especially to Podge,” Geoffrion said. “We helped each other out a lot tonight.”
Wisconsin’s second goal was set up when Turnbull charged in to clean up the potential rebound. Instead, the rebound bounced off Russell right to Turris. With Turnbull still right in front of Russell, Turris had a wide-open net and buried his national-leading fifth goal of the year.
Along with his fifth goal, Turris added three more assists, bringing his national-leading assist total to seven and point total to 12.
Just over two minutes later, the Badgers got their third break of the opening period when freshman Patrick Johnson scored his first collegiate goal when his shot bounced off Russell’s right skate and into the back of the net for a 3-0 lead.
Once Robert Morris made its critical turnover, the Colonials never recovered, as Kyle Klubertanz and Brendan Smith scored and Michael Davies added two to finish off the scoring.
“(Wisconsin) smelled blood and we self-destructed,” Schooley said.
After playing in three straight contests, Wisconsin gave junior goalie Shane Connelly the night off and gave freshman Scott Gudmandson is first career start in net. He responded by making 25 saves, including a spectacular point-blank glove save late in the third, to earn his first collegiate victory.
“He looked a little nervous, wasn’t too sure on some of the pucks but to his credit, some of those pucks were coming in there like knuckleballs,” Eaves said. “Confidence is 50 percent of a goaltender’s equipment and he has that going for him.”
With four inexperienced lines and three new defensemen, Wisconsin’s success on the power play and penalty kill is the glaring statistic that stands out about Eaves’ club. Over the weekend, the Badgers converted on 8-of-17 power play chances (47 percent) and killed off 14-of-15 penalties (93 percent). On the season, in 26 power play chances, the Badgers have tallied a goal 10 times while killing off 27 of 31 power plays.
“With the ability that these young people were bringing in, (we hoped) that we would find chemistry and that we would be able to create some things on the power play,” Eaves said. “These young people have found that chemistry, taking what’s given and having a very important impact on the games we have played thus far.”
Wisconsin has next weekend off in preparation for its WCHA conference opener while Robert Morris goes back home and hosts Wayne State in a weekend series.