ST. PAUL, Minn. — Coming into the Final Five’s third place game, neither Denver nor Wisconsin had lost two games in a row all season.
Now, that statement is only true for the Badgers. Buoyed by a three-goal first period in which WCHA player of the year Marc Cheverie was pulled, the Badgers beat the Pioneers, 6-3, Saturday afternoon.
“[I'm] disappointed, not only in the result, but in our performance once again,” said DU coach George Gwozdecky. “[We were] certainly not anticipating coming in here and going 0-2.”
“We looked fresh, we looked sharp [and] we looked on top of our game,” said his Wisconsin counterpart, Mike Eaves. “We were firing on all cylinders.”
“Overall, as a group, we were more ready to go,” said Ben Street. “We knew we needed retribution from our performance the night before.”
The Badgers started off the scoring 2:21 into the game. Street sent a pass in front of the net to Aaron Bendickson, whose shot came to the right of Cheverie, where Street was able to jam home the rebound.
Just over two minutes later, Derek Stepan came into the zone along the right boards and wristed a shot high glove side over Cheverie to give the Badgers a 2-0 lead.
The game calmed down a little, but the Badgers kept pressuring and just over halfway through the first period, they struck again on a passing play while on the power play. Michael Davies sent a pass from the point down to Stepan in the left corner who hit Blake Geoffrion in front of the net who tipped the puck behind Cheverie (8 saves), who was subsequently pulled in favor of Adam Murray.
“Marc has been our best player and he’s won games for us even when we haven’t played well in front of him. We weren’t playing well in front of him today and he wasn’t as sharp as he normally is and it was more to keep him from getting shelled than anything else,” said Gwozdecky. “We have to have him ready for next weekend.”
The Pioneers survived the rest of the first period and got on the scoreboard 25 seconds into the second period on a power play goal of their own. Joe Colborne fed Rhett Rakhshani in the neutral zone who then broke in uncontested on UW goaltender Scott Gudmandson and wristed the puck over him.
Wisconsin kept coming, though, and scored two more in the middle part of the period. Andy Bohmbach intercepted a pass in the defensive zone and stuck with it to chip the puck out to Craig Smith. Smith broke in on Murray on a two-on-one with Geoffrion, who potted his second of the game to make it 4-1 about nine minutes in.
About two and a half minutes later, Bohmbach sent a puck from behind the Denver net in front to Sean Dolan, who wristed it behind Murray to make it 5-1.
“I don’t think our preparation was there,” said Cheverie. “Give Wisconsin all the credit in the world. They showed up and we didn’t.”
The Pioneers came alive somewhat in the third period, even managing to pull within two goals. Jesse Martin took a pass from Drew Shore behind the net to put a power-play goal behind Gudmandson 4:40 into the third period.
Just over two minutes later, sophomore Nate Dewhurst scored his first career goal to make it a 5-3 game. Brian Gifford sailed a pass across the crease to a crashing Dewhurst, who tapped the puck in backdoor behind Gudmandson (33 saves).
However, that’s all the Pioneers would get, as the Badgers would get one more goal with 3:44 to play when Michael Davies scored on a wraparound chance behind Murray (34 saves).
“We had the jump, got some goals and got started the way we would like to, and it carried us through the end of the game,” said Eaves. “You take away those three goals in the first period and it’s a 3-3 game.”