MADISON, Wis. — In the championship of the 21st Badger Hockey Showdown, senior Blake Geoffrion made sure the host went out a winner for the 11th and final time.
Despite being quiet throughout the weekend, Geoffrion made the most noise at the last possible moment, registering a shootout goal in the third round to allow the No. 7 Badgers to hoist the Pettit Cup after 2-1 shootout victory over No.9 Yale.
The end result will go down as a 2-2 tie Sunday night, thanks in large part to two goals from senior Michael Davies, but with the Showdown being discontinued next year due to scheduling and budgetary concerns, ending on the championship level meant so much more.
“Wasn’t this a great way to have it end?” UW coach Mike Eaves said. “Kind of an exciting way for it to end, and a memorable one. To win it in a shootout, I think that’s kind of cool.”
With Wisconsin (12-5-2) ending every Thursday practice with a shootout, Eaves already had his order in his hip pocket, putting senior Davies — the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after scoring five points on the weekend — first, which worked well when he responded by faking the initial shot only to pull the puck back and tuck it inside the right post.
“I am just getting the bounces right now, and I think the whole team is,” Davies said. “We need to keep it going in the second half.”
After Yale (8-3-3) winger Denny Kearney tied the shootout score in the second round at one, it set the stage for Geoffrion, who wasn’t quite how to react.
“I’ve never been in that situation before,” he quipped. “I looked at (senior tri-captain Ben Street) and kind of went, ‘Huh?’”
He responded by faking out Yale freshman goalie Nick Maricic, pulling him across the crease and burying the forehand winner over the freshman goalie’s blocker.
“I was fine once I got on the ice, but it was nice to get that win,” Geoffrion said. “It’s a good feeling.”
“The shots are a lot harder to stop the defense,” Maricic chuckled. “It doesn’t get much closer than that. Those are two pretty evenly-ranked teams.”
The final billing looked to give the 12,279 fans in attendance its full dollar value. Yale owned the top scoring offense in the country at 4.46 goals per outing and dropped six goals on No.11 Ferris State and its nationally second-ranked scoring defense in its semifinal win.
With Wisconsin possessing the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation at 4.11 goals per game, a low-scoring nail biter didn’t seem in the cards.
UW junior goalie Scott Gudmandson knew the stats, and knew that the amount of rebounds the previous night against Merrimack wasn’t going to cut it. He responded by cutting down on the second-chance opportunities, although the Bulldogs fired 42 shots on net — the most UW had given up all season by a long shot.
“After that game, I didn’t think I played very well,” Gudmandson said. “I really wanted to try and focus, bear down and play well tonight.”
Other than the two goals — a deflected shot by Kearney at 3:008 in the first and the big equalizer by winger Brian O’Neill at 17:17 in the third — that snuck by Gudmandson, the Badgers’ defense was strong, including killing off a Jordy Murray five-minute checking-from-behind penalty that spanned the first and second periods.
Rotating five defensemen for the entire weekend, it was a team effort, especially with UW missing defensemen Jake Gardiner and John Ramage and center Derek Stepan skating with Team USA in the World Junior Championships and Murray in the locker room.
In their absence, Geoffrion blocked two shots on the same shift without the assistance of his stick and forward Craig Smith knocked a loose puck out of harm’s way with just over five minute left
“The resilient mindset of the guys, they just hung in there,” Eaves said. “They did what they could, they blocked shots. The resilience of this group stands out in our mind of our coaching staff.”
The frustration reached a bowling point when Bulldogs coach Keith Allain grabbed a stick from the bench and launched it at center ice early in the third period, upset about a non-call when UW forward Patrick Johnson appeared to pull down center Andrew Miller from behind on a drive to the net, something Eaves acknowledged was missed but Allain refused to elaborate on.
“Should be obvious,” Allain muttered.
Maricic and his defense was just as solid in limiting a potent Wisconsin offense to 22 shots, tying UW’s lowest total of the season, but couldn’t stop Davies in the second, as the senior one-timed a goal at 2:26 and banged home a backhand rebound off his own shot at 14:11.
UW held that led until the near the very end, as O’Neills power-play goal with the time winding down helped Yale take advantage of a third period in which they outshot the hosts 18-3, a play that eventually sent the championship to the shootout.
“I think our kids competed hard against a very good hockey team,” Allain said. “I think we showed a lot of resiliency in battling back. In terms of what we are trying to accomplish as a hockey team, I am very satisfied.”