MADISON, Wis. — Through 48 minutes Friday night, Colorado College could not seem to solve Wisconsins defense or goaltender Shane Connelly.
But for a two minute stretch in the third period, the fourth-ranked Tigers figured him out twice.
Colorado College shook off its jet lag by scoring twice in the third period to start the second half of the WCHA conference season on the right foot, besting host Wisconsin 2-0 Friday night.
Looking for its second WCHA regular season title in the last four years, Colorado College (13-6-0, 12-3-0 WCHA) knew that another stumble in Madison’s Kohl Center would not help its cause. The Tigers entered the weekend 4-5-3 in their last 12 games in Madison, including earning only a single point the last time they travelled to Wisconsin in November 2005.
So when the Tigers started off the first two periods with subpar hockey and with Wisconsin going on the power play, the mood on the CC bench would assumed to be downtrodden. In reality, the mood was of surprisingly confident and it showed.
“We felt that if we could kill the power play we could gain the momentum,” CC freshman Tyler Johnson said. “It was huge that we turned the power play in more than we wanted.”
With Wisconsin setting up the power play, two Badgers collided in the CC zone, setting up the puck for junior Chad Rau, who travelled the length of the ice and beat Connelly top shelf for the eventual game-winning goal.
The goal was Rau’s team-leading 13 goal and points number 22 on the season.
“I just took it and went,” said Raul of the game-winning goal. “I was trying to take advantage of the opportunity, get a good shot off and hope the puck didn’t bounce on me or anything like that.”
Fast forward 113 seconds later and Johnson was able to celebrate his 19th birthday in style.
With his parents and twin sisters, who play hockey at St. Cloud State, in town for the weekend’s birthday festivities, Johnson took advantage of another Wisconsin turnover, scoring his first collegiate goal unassisted to suck the energy out of the Badgers and the raucous crowd.
“It was weird scoring because it was so quiet,” Johnson said. “It felt good though. That’s all I wanted for my birthday was to be able to get that first goal.”
According to CC head coach Scott Owens, the immediate second goal showed him that his team is starting to grow by staying hungry and keeping the foot on the proverbial gas pedal.
“You talk about maturation and this team, that’s something that we have not necessarily been doing,” Owens said. “Earlier in the year, we would give (a goal) up right away.”
Despite dictating the game for the first two periods, Wisconsin (8-8-3, 4-6-1 WCHA) ” playing without forwards Kyle Turris and Blake Geoffrion and defenseman Jamie McBain because of the IIHF World Junior Championships ” could not generate any fire power, as its two costly turnovers proved to be the difference.
Since these two teams played Nov.16-17 in Colorado Springs, the Badgers have scored just two power plays goals while giving up five short-handed tallies.
“We outshot them 15-10 and then we stopped doing the things we talked about doing,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said. “As a coach, you wish you could get inside their young mind and figure it out. In the second period, we had more turnovers than I can remember.
“Ultimately, the game came down to two turnovers,” he added. “Turnovers are the things that can bite you in low scoring games.”
Combine that with the way CC goalie Richard Bachman was playing in net, the Badgers had little chance to right their wrongs. Bachman, who leads the WCHA in save percentage (93.6), is second in winning percentage, and third in goals against average, stopped 22 shots in his third shutout of the year.
“I know Raul gets a short-handed goal and Tyler gets his first goal, but Bachman is making quiet, key saves,” Owens said. “He’s calm and composed. He’s our team MVP right now.”
With the Tigers having the Kohl Center figured out for at least one night, Colorado College, who has not played a home game since November 23, will look to cap off its nine-game road trip with its first sweep at Wisconsin since December 1995.
“Every point is important on the road in the WCHA,” Bachman said. “It is not easy to win on the road in these buildings. It is going to be nice to end this road trip getting two wins and going back home.”