MADISON, Wis. — The saying is clich, but Northern Michigan couldn’t wait to turn the calendar over.
Being off for two weeks after feeling the sting of being swept by rival Michigan Tech, the Wildcats, winless in their last seven games (0-5-2) and yet to win a road game in 2008, were fuming at having let opportunities slip away.
“It’s a new year and we wanted a new start,” sophomore forward Matt Olver said. “We wanted to come out, play our game and start fresh.”
With that thought of redemption and having clean slate ahead of them, Olver made sure the Wildcats started 2009 strong against one of the hottest hockey team in country.
Olver had a hand in all three goals, assisting on the first and scoring the last two, to lead Northern Michigan, despite missing its three captains and starting goaltender, to a 3-2 upset over No.14 Wisconsin Friday night.
“I can’t remember our last win on the road, especially against someone as good as Wisconsin,” Olver said of NMU’s first road win since March 22, 2008. “Wisconsin is the best team we have played all year and we came out strong and things started to click for us. We knew we had a
big opportunity to come here and make a statement.”
After senior Tom Gorowsky scored in the waning minutes of the first period to give UW its first and only lead, the Wildcats (4-13-3) took all the momentum out of the home crowd at the beginning of the second period, scoring two goals in the first one minute, 13 seconds,
highlighted by Olver’s goal to take the lead.
After NMU scored just its 10th power-play goal of the season to tie the score 38 seconds into the period, Olver charged up the right side and got a lucky bounce by throwing the puck on net, seeing the puck deflect off a Wisconsin defender’s skate and past senior goalie Shane
Connelly (16 saves) for his fifth goal of the year
“We talked all week about going hard to the net and throwing pucks on net,” Olver said of his first 5-on-5 goal of the year. “If you throw pucks on net, good things can happen for your team.”
Wisconsin (10-8-3) did respond, however, on a spectacular shorthanded goal by freshman Derek Stepan. Seizing a turnover in the neutral zone, Stepan put a between-the-legs move on defenseman Ben Lindemulder and backhanded the puck into the back of the net at 13:41 in the second period.
It seemed like that was the moment that was going to spark the Badgers, who had been unable to control the tempo throughout most of the first two periods. However, Olver made sure to douse UW’s spark before it could ignite. By simply throwing the puck on net, the puck sneaked through Connelly’s five hole, giving Olver the game winner one minute, 43 seconds into the third period, marking just the fifth game all season Northern Michigan had scored at least three goals.
“He’s had a little bit of bad luck,” NMU coach Walt Kyle said of Olver. “I thought he was outstanding for us tonight.”
After being academically ineligible the first half of the season, junior goalie Derek Janzen was solid in his first start of the season, stopping 33 shots, including 17 in a rampant third period, to make sure Northern Michigan’s one goal lead stood up.
“Derek Janzen is a real good guy,” Kyle said, who said it was an issue with a dropped class and credits that caused him to miss the first half of the season. “He’s a good man”
On the other side of the coin, Wisconsin, fresh off winning its own Badger Hockey Showdown tournament, had no answer for the lack of effort and intensity that had propelled the Badgers on a season-best seven game unbeaten streak.
“I am not really sure what happened,” Gorowsky said. “As a group of individuals, people weren’t ready to play. We didn’t compete at times and it showed with mental lapses early in the second period. The effort was there at times and other times it wasn’t. We didn’t play a full game.”