HOUGHTON, Mich. — The Michigan Tech Huskies were without their top offensive threat, assistant captain Brett Olson, and the loss was apparent almost from the opening faceoff, as the No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers outhustled the Huskies to loose pucks and picked up a pair of goals from both Aaron Bendickson and Andy Bohmbach en route to a 5-2 win and the weekend sweep at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
“We said coming into this weekend that not having Blake Geoffrion in the lineup that other gentlemen would have to step up,” said Badgers’ coach Mike Eaves. “The depth came through tonight for us.”
Jake Gardiner put the visitors on the board with a great move to get around Huskies’ goaltender Josh Robinson at 5:39. Ryan McDonagh took a pass from John Mitchell and fired the initial shot, leading to the rebound chance that Gardiner picked up.
Huskies’ (5-26-1 overall, 4-22-0 WCHA) sophomore winger Alex MacLeod had a golden opportunity to even the game shortly after the goal, taking a pass from freshman winger Anthony Schooley and firing it on Badgers’ netminder Scott Gudmandson. MacLeod’s shot rebounded back to him, but he couldn’t quite pull the trigger.
“We had a couple of opportunities to tie it, if not go ahead,” said Huskies’ coach Jamie Russell. “I just think we ran out of gas playing with such a short bench.”
The Badgers (21-8-4 overall, 16-7-3 WCHA) extended their lead to two when Bohmbach crashed the net and had a shot from Craig Smith bounce off of him and past Robinson. The goal came at 12:36 and was the result of more Badgers’ pressure.
Things settled down after the goal and the Huskies finished the last eight minutes with a couple of power play chances back-to-back, but just couldn’t find the net.
The Badgers opened the second period with 37 seconds left of a two-man advantage, but Robinson and the Huskies’ defense kept the puck out of the net.
Huskies’ captain Malcolm Gwilliam and junior center Eric Kattelus had a couple of good chances to get pucks past Gudmandson, but neither could find the twine. Shortly after their only power play of the second, the Huskies did strike.
Sophomore winger Bryce Reddick notched his first collegiate goal at 9:02 on a rebound in close to the net. Senior winger Ryan Bunger picked up the first rebound on a shot from freshman center Evan Witt in the high slot, and fired the shot that bounced to Reddick.
The Badgers earned a power play three minutes later and fired a few shots in on Robinson, who finished with 15 of his 45 stops for the game in that period.
From that point forward, the Huskies began to believe that they were still in the game, and they started to take pucks to Gudmandson. The best chance came from junior winger Bennett Royer, who carried the puck in close, fired a shot, and nearly managed to get the rebound to Gwilliam.
Bendickson notched the first of his two goals 4:20 into the final frame. After a Huskies’ defender turned the puck over behind his goal, Mitchell picked up the loose puck and rifled a pass to Bendickson in front for the one-timer.
“They’ve been on the cusp here for about the last four games,” said Eaves. “I was glad to see they were rewarded for their hard work.”
The Huskies had a chance to pull within one again, as senior winger Drew Dobson got in close to the Badgers’ goal on the power play, but his shot was stopped by Gudmandson, who finished the night with 30 saves.
Bendickson’s second goal came shortly after that Huskies’ power play at 10:36. Mitchell picked up a loose puck created by Patrick Johnson and fed Bendickson to Robinson’s left, and his low shot found the twine behind the Huskies’ netminder.
It didn’t take the Huskies long to answer that, as Reddick notched his second of the night at 11:58. Freshman winger Mikael Lickteig picked up the puck in the corner to Gudmandson’s left and fed Reddick alone in front for the goal.
Badgers’ forward Craig Smith took a penalty for slashing with 1:37 remaining, allowing Russell to pull Robinson for the two-man advantage. Unfortunately, the Huskies couldn’t get anything to Gudmandson during the advantage and instead took a penalty of their own when Kattelus was whistled for tripping.
Bohmbach blocked a shot and carried the puck the length of the rink before icing the game with an empty-net goal at 19:42.
Neither team could get anything going on the power play, as the Huskies finished zero-for-six while the Badgers were zero-for-five.
The Huskies held Hobey Baker Candidate Brendan Smith, Michael Davies, and Derek Stepan off the scoresheet despite the loss.