MADISON, Wis. — If there were still lingering doubts about whether the No. 13 Michigan Tech Huskies deserve to be listed among the nations elite teams, those doubts should be squelched after the Huskies (5-3-0 overall, 4-2-0 WCHA) held the high-flying No. 10 Wisconsin Badger offense in check until the third period. The Badgers fought hard to come away with a 4-2 victory at the always loud Kohl Center Saturday night.
“It was a better effort tonight that was more consistent,” said Badgers’ head coach Mike Eaves. “We made changes to our lineup to make a statement.”
The first period looked much like the third period from Friday night’s matchup with the Badgers (4-2-0 overall, 1-1-0 WCHA) controlling the play. However, Huskies’ netminder Michael-Lee Teslak, starting back-to-back games for the first time since last spring’s playoffs, only needed to make nine stops.
“We didnt win many faceoffs tonight,” said Huskies’ head coach Jamie Russell.
Perhaps the best scoring chance for the Badgers in the opening stanza came off the stick of sophomore center Blake Geoffrion, who took a pass from freshman Patrick Johnson and skated in unabated, but Teslak made the save with his right leg pad.
About halfway through the first period, the Huskies had a great chance to take the lead when sophomore winger Ryan Bunger redirected a shot from the left circle, but Bungers tip flew high over the net. The Huskies finished the period with just four shots on Badgers’ goalie Shane Connelly.
The Huskies came out of the gates quickly in the second period. Senior winger Jordan Foote got the Huskies on the board with a rebound goal just 24 seconds in. Captain Jimmy Kerr picked up the pass from freshman Bennett Royer along the boards to Connelly’s left and fired a wrist shot that Connelly stopped, but Foote was there to bury the rebound.
“You go in after one period and make some adjustments,” said Russell. “We had a great first shift (in the second).”
Freshman center Sean Dolan evened the game with a great effort in front of Teslak. Dolan fought off a Huskies’ defender and got himself into position for a pass from senior winger Matthew Ford for his second of the season.
“I knew that (Dolan) was there, but I was still a little slow getting over to him,” said Teslak.
Huskies defenseman Mike VanWagner, a sophomore, broke up a three-on-one opportunity for the Badgers.
Despite trailing 15-6 in shots almost midway through the game, the Huskies had a chance to regain the lead when junior center Alex Gagne carried the puck out in front of Connelly from behind the net. His shot rebounded out to Bunger, but Bunger’s shot hit a body in front of Connelly, and the whistle was blown after referee Todd Anderson lost sight of the puck.
Just under eight minutes into the third period, the Badgers had a couple of chances to take the lead as freshman Ryan McDonagh was twice fed at the blue line for shots on goal, but Teslak stood his ground.
“Our freshman learned this weekend that their learning curves will be steep,” said Eaves. “(Our young defensemen) are getting caught up ice, giving up odd man rushes.”
At the 8:23 mark of the third period, the Huskies dodged a real bullet when it appeared the Badgers had scored, but after reviewing the play, the WCHA officials ruled it no goal.
Assistant captain Kyle Klubertanz broke the 1-1 tie with a goal very similar to the one he scored Friday night, cutting through the slot and unloading a slap shot off a pass from freshman Kyle Turris. The goal, which came at 9:38, was also assisted by assistant captain Ben Street.
The Badgers struck for the third time when freshman Cody Goloubef knocked in a rebound over Teslak at 15:38. Klubertanz and Johnson both picked up assists on the goal, Goloubef’s first.
Russell burned his time out with 2:17 remaining to try to rally his troops. He pulled Teslak with 2:11 left, and the move proved to be a smart one as assistant captain Tyler Shelast blew past the Badger defense and beat Connelly between the legs.
The Badgers closed off the Huskies despite being shorthanded for the last thirty seconds of the game when McDonagh hit the open net with less than a second remaining.
“Confidence is a very finicky thing,” said Eaves. “It was vital to get that first (WCHA) win tonight.”