ST. PAUL, Minn. — There were two forms of consolation that Wisconsin could enjoy after a second-period surge sparked a victory in the WCHA Final Five third-place game Saturday.
The Badgers could walk out of Xcel Energy Center with heads high a day after they were pretty low.
Jordy Murray scored twice, the first one part of a three-goal turnaround in the second period that gave the Badgers a 4-1 victory over top seed North Dakota.
In Friday’s semifinal against Denver, Wisconsin seemingly could do no right and lost 3-0.
“Our goal was to try to achieve a 20th win of the year and get some redemption for our performance last night,” Badgers coach Mike Eaves.
The other variety of consolation is a little more devious, and was not espoused by anyone in Wisconsin’s camp.
The victory allowed the Badgers to foil both of their main rivals on the same day. They took care of North Dakota on the ice and the result, combined with other happenings, extinguished Minnesota’s hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in projections of the PairWise Rankings.
Wisconsin is also out of those projections, and some knowledge of that may have carried into the opening period Saturday, when the Badgers were outshot 17-6 and barely had a scoring chance.
But the turnaround came in the first intermission, when Eaves had what he characterized as a “calm, steely blue talk” with his players in the locker room.
“We didn’t come out with a lot of emotion,” Badgers goaltender Shane Connelly said. “I think we were just coasting through. A lot of guys maybe were just going through the motions. We realized that there’s a lot still at stake and there’s no point in giving up.
“We needed pride, and coach Eaves came in and told the guys that we need more out of each and everyone in the locker room. I think everyone stepped up and realized we can still win this game. We were embarrassed in the first period, just like we were embarrassed yesterday, and that’s no way to go out if this was our last game.”
They made up for it with a hearty second-period response.
Nine minutes into the period, the Badgers had erased the Sioux’s 1-0 lead, taken the advantage themselves and owned a 14-1 lead in shots on goal in the period.
Andy Bohmbach started the surge in the first four minutes by tapping in a loose puck in the crease after Wisconsin forward Blake Geoffrion was aided into goaltender Brad Eidsness.
Less than five minutes later, Murray gave the Badgers their first lead of the weekend by roofing a shot off a pass from Michael Davies.
Brendan Smith scored on the power play in the final minute of the second to make it 3-1.
Murray added his second goal of the game — and UW’s second power-play goal of the contest — in the third period.
“We knew we had to come out hard” in the second period, Murray said. “And he [Eaves] told us straightforward. I think we really stepped up and listened to him.”
No. 16 Wisconsin (20-17-4) won the season series against the Sioux three games to two and sent sixth-ranked North Dakota (24-14-4) into the NCAA tournament on a low note.
In two games at the Final Five, the Sioux were outscored 7-1. Ryan Duncan scored his 19th goal of the season in the first period to give UND the lead.
They had to play Saturday afternoon after losing to Minnesota-Duluth Friday night, and that may have drained the gas tank by the second period.
“We just didn’t come with the same aggressiveness in the second period that we had in the first,” North Dakota winger Ryan Martens said. “When a team jumps on you like that, it’s tough to get it back.”
It was even tougher with Connelly playing well for the Badgers in what appears to have been his final collegiate game.
The senior stopped 35 shots.
“He was solid,” Eaves said.
“You never want to end on a loss,” Connelly said. “Hopefully we can keep going and end on another win, but this is a unique situation, to end on a win like this. To get a performance from the team, to show character coming out after a disappointing day yesterday and a disappointing first period just shows everyone in the locker room cares about each other.”