MADISON, Wis. — The man advantage never looked like such a disadvantage as far as Wisconsin was concerned.
Minnesota State could not stay out of the penalty box, but third ranked Wisconsin couldnt find fluidity in its first seven power-play chances, capitalize on its decisive advantage in shots, or solve the unknown riddle of Mavericks freshman goalie Phil Cook.
That changed as soon as the WCHA officials hauled two Mavericks to the box. The Badgers finally took advantage of the plethora of penalties as senior Michael Davies scored two power-play goals in a 31-second span to kick start the home team into gear for a 4-3 victory Friday night.
We couldnt score on the power play, Davies said. We were getting our chances. We knew we would get one if we stayed persistent.
Davies was being kind, as the Badgers (17-7-4 overall, 12-6-3 in the WCHA) werent able to score in any measure, despite generating plenty of scoring chances and dominating the shot chart, making matters worse when the Mavericks took a 1-0 lead off a backhanded shot by Mike Louwerse at 14:26, controlling the momentum and keeping the 12,522 fans restless.
We joked in the locker room that it seemed like we were all Swede no Finnish because of the chances we had, Eaves smirked, admitting the Badgers were losing energy on the man advantage.
Thats when a single sequence changed the course for the rest of the evening. Off a face-off in States zone that saw Wisconsin miss out on two more prime scoring chances, the officials hauled center Zach Harrison and defenseman Kurt Davis to the box for interference and
Suddenly, the Mavericks (12-15-2, 6-14-1) had to kill off two minutes with two players down against the WCHAs fourth-best power play unit, a group that was pent-up with frustration. In a span of 39 seconds, Davies tallies helped the Badgers find their niche.
I thought we did a pretty good job until they did score, Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting said. Thats a tough situation, 5-on-3 in this league, especially when you have the type of skill players (Wisconsin) does.
After senior tri-captain Blake Geoffrion won the ensuing face off, fellow captain Ben Street out muscled defenseman Ben Youds for the puck at the right post. The puck skipped over to Davies, who was denied on the first shot, but knocked in the rebound at 15:39.
Seconds after tying the score at one, center Derek Stepan took a shot that deflected off Geoffrions face mask right to freshman Justin Schultz in the right circle. Schultz took a shot that Cook (40 saves) blocked, but the rebound went to a wide-open Davies, who knocked it in unguarded at the left post.
Davies wasnt finished in the period, throwing a pretty cross-ice pass that Geoffrion knocked in from the right post at 16:10, moving the senior into the team lead with 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists). As important as Davies two power-play goals, the fact that junior goalie Scott Gudmandson stopped multiple odd-man rushes (including a couple shorthanded) on his way to 21 saves combined to give the Badgers a jump start.
Goody made some big saves, some really big saves when we needed him, Eaves said.
The Badgers looked to be comfortably ahead when Geoffrion perfectly executed an odd-man rush passing sequence by passing the puck off to Aaron Bendickson, who registered the shorthanded goal at 11:33 that seemed to put a bow on Wisconsins victory, up 4-1.
It also seemed to take the heat off right winger Eriah Hayes, who had a wide-open shot go off the left post at 6:27 left in the third period. As it turned out, Hayes will be kicking himself for missing that key opportunity.
The comeback started at 15:48 when Harrison tricked UW defenseman Cody Goloubef with a head fake threw the puck between Gudmandsons pads to make it 4-2. It got interesting when Minnesota State was awarded a penalty shot after senior tri-captain Ryan McDonagh was penalized for pushing a loose puck out of the crease.
Right winger Kael Mouillierat converted a rare penalty shot with 1 minute left to make it 4-3, although Eaves believes his player was in the right.
There were some differences in opinions there, Eaves said of the conversation between the referees and the linesmen. Well definitely be making a call here (to the league office).
In the end, the Mavericks couldnt overcome a season-high 16 penalties (leading to UW going 3-of-12 of the power play), being outshot 44-24 and had all five of its power-play chances killed off.
In striking resemblance to last years Wisconsin squad, Minnesota State has now lost nine one goal games overall, eight in conference play and seven against the top five teams in the league.
They are starting to wear on us a little bit, Jutting said. Tonights over with. Were getting prepared for tomorrow night.
Same goes for the Wisconsin side, as the Badgers assumed sole possession of fourth place (with games in hand on Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud) heading into the series finale Saturday.
Where the game kind of went in the third period sets up for a pretty intense contest tomorrow, Eaves said.