MADISON, Wis. — One night earlier, none too pleased with his team’s lack of effort, Colorado College coach Scott Owens was about as blatant as he could be, commenting that the Tigers weren’t getting the needed production from their secondary lines to make a sound impact.
His message tonight was simple in the locker room pre-game; he wanted the Tigers’ best effort, win, lose or draw.
As it turned out, he got the effort and a win to boot.
With Owens overhauling all four lines, the move made him look like a genius, as No. 11 Colorado College got one goal from all four lines to come back from an early two-goal deficit to upend No. 16 Wisconsin 4-3, splitting the weekend series.
“January 17th isn’t a must win, but what it was important for was our confidence,” Owens said. “We needed a character win. In that sense, we needed this one desperately.”
With the two teams deadlocked at three for the majority of the third period, Owens major line-up shift paid off. Skating on the fourth line the night before, junior Brian McMillin was bumped up to the top line and scored an uncharacteristic garbage goal for Colorado College (13-9-5, 9-7-2), banging home a rebound in front of UW’s Shane Connelly at 16:13 for the game winner.
“We juggled some things around after being stale and, you know, we said, ‘To hell with it, let’s put him up there,’” Owens said about McMillin. “We weren’t happy with last night and if you work hard enough sometimes, you catch a break and that’s what happened.”
From that point on, the Tigers went in lockdown mode against Wisconsin (13-10-2, 10-6-2 WCHA). With UW throwing everything it could on net, Tigers’ goalie and reigning WCHA player of the year Richard Bachman finally found his niche. Bachman stopped 26 shots on the night, 20 after giving up UW’s third goal, and calmed down as the game went on, making his coach’s decision not to pull him a wise move.
“I had thoughts of pulling him,” Owens admitted. “He is so rarely out of position that I have never seen him give up ones like that. He competed and it was symbolic because he competed like the other guys. That’s our All American. Play though it.”
The end result was nothing like how the game began, as the first period suggested that the Badgers were going to run away with the sweep.
Wisconsin’s Cody Goloubef, fresh off his gold medal performance with Team Canada in the World Juniors, registered two first period goals that easily could be mistaken for carbon copies of one another.
Goloubef scored goal number one on a power play, firing a shot from center ice just shy of the blue line. With UW’s John Mitchell screening Bachman, Goloubef’s shot cleared Bachman’s stick and found the back of the net at 6:07.
Five minutes later and minus Mitchell, Goloubef, sitting in nearly the identical spot, fired another missile that Bachman was late getting a stick on, doubling UW’s lead.
In a span of two minutes, 59 seconds, however, all thoughts of a Wisconsin runaway were drastically altered, as the Tigers bottom three lines awoke from their slumber.
It started harmlessly enough when second-line forward Tyler Johnson got Colorado College on the board. With UW defenseman Jake Gardiner and CC forward Eric Walsky battling for the loose puck in front of Connelly, Johnson slyly swiped the puck from the scrum and tucked it inside the right post, as Connelly’s late dive was unsuccessful.
CC tied it up 96 seconds later, thanks to a Wisconsin turnover. Assistant captain and third-line forward Mike Testwuide, mired in a huge scoring slump, was more aggressive to a puck in the corner, taking it away from a UW defenseman and threading the puck between Connelly’s pads to tie the score at two.
It was evident that the goal frustrated the usually composed Connelly, who shouted in disgust as the Tigers celebrated in front of him. Thirty-six seconds later, the Tigers took advantage of a distracted Connelly.
Giving up a long rebound and with defenseman Jamie McBain unable to clear the puck, fourth-line center Matt Overman grabbed the loose puck and tucked it between Connelly’s armpit, giving CC its first lead of the weekend.
“The second one kind of got in my head a little bit and it snowballed,” said Connelly, who stopped 22 shots on the night. “I shot myself in the foot in the little bit and second guessing. Those bounces in that span weren’t going our way and we made it hard on ourselves.”
Only 47 seconds later, Blake Geoffrion took a feed from linemate Andy Bohmbach and chipped a wrister past Bachman to tie the score, but that was the last soft goal the All-American goaltender allowed.
“Everyone in the building thought they were going to score the go-ahead goal, but we hung in there, hung in there,” Owens said. “We aren’t the most gifted guys but we made something happen.”
A night after the Badgers turned up the heat in the third period, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Tigers, Wisconsin, and Goloubef, got no such luck after his two shots clanged in.
Goloubef was pulled down on a breakaway that earned a power play for UW, but no penalty shot, had another puck carom off the crossbar and couldn’t make any magic happen in the final seconds, when his final shot attempt from his lucky spot was blocked by the defense.
“It was a very bizarre night,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said. “If I was outside, I would look for a full moon. One of the things we look at is we didn’t have the same energy that we had last night in many areas. We had to try to figure out the answer in the third period and we didn’t tonight.
“We didn’t have that little 10 percent that seemed to be in the guys’ eyes last night.”