MADISON, Wis. — Its special teams were flat, its play was uninspiring and the chorus of boos raining down on them was easily deciphered.
One would seem the kick in the pants the Badgers received Friday would be enough for a more inspired effort the following night. Instead, No.13 Wisconsin found out what other members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association are finding out — the Fighting Sioux were picked to win the league for a reason.
with their lucky black jerseys hanging in their stalls for the second straight night, it gave the Fighting Sioux the perfect opportunity to deliver their message.
“Fast and mean in black,” senior Matt Frattin said.
Frattin and sophomore Corban Knight certainly sent the message, equating all the offense for No.10 North Dakota to cap a weekend sweep with a 4-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 15,325 fans Saturday.
With 25 NHL draft picks littering the ice, the deciding factor wasn’t talent. The message was clear that it was about experience, particularly the defense of North Dakota (7-4-1, 5-3-0 WCHA) that features three seniors, three forms of captains and a moxie that allows the group to get to time and space quicker.
“Throughout the whole 60 minutes, we kept our composure,” Knight said. “You’ve got to credit that to the veteran presence on our team.”
The elation could be seen in the body language after Wisconsin defenseman John Ramage’s power-play goal at 4:36 in the third tied the score at one. His missile from the right circle broke aN 0-for-7 skid for the conference’s top power play and erased memories of the Badgers 0-for-6 showing the night before, opportunities coach Mike Eaves said created more negative karma than good.
As quickly as that problem was erased, the Fighting Sioux created three more.
A crossing pass by captain Chay Grenoway was perfectly redirected by Knight into the top left corner of the net less than two minutes after Ramage tied the score at one.
After assistant captain Craig Smith was whistled for a delay of game penalty, Knight tapped in a loose rebound at the right post 19 seconds later and Frattin added a second goal 82 seconds after that for good measure.
“They made a couple costly mistakes and we were lucky to capitalize on them,” said Knight, of the three goals in 3:43. “There were a couple big-time plays by some players that made it happen.”
Largely becoming one of the highest scoring teams in the nation the last two seasons by crashing the net hard to bat in rebounds, Wisconsin (6-4-2, 3-3-2 WCHA) entered the weekend averaging 31.3 shots a game and were third in the country with 4.30 goals per game.
Not only did Wisconsin go scoreless for five straight periods, Wisconsin managed only 16 shots for the second straight night, its fewest since the 14 during Eaves first season in 2002-03, the lowest in his tenure.
“Some eyebrows had been raised by our pretty good start,” Eaves said. “This is more of what I thought we would see early; our goaltending having to play well, letting us hang and try to find a way to win the game.
“We’re going through some growing pains right now, so I am not truly surprised by this.”
It was the five-on-five skating, or lack thereof, that was the problem Saturday for the Badgers. The abundance of time spent in the box kept Wisconsin’s offense at a standstill, as the Badgers were on the penalty kill four times in a 19-minute span that handcuffed its offense, messed with its rotation and took away any semblance of momentum in a four-shot first period.
When the Badgers did get through, sophomore goalie Aaron Dell was there, stopping 14 of 16 shots.
“We had to shorten our bench and that was part of conversation after the first, to stay out of the box,” Eaves said.
Frattin accounted for the opening goal, converting on a power-play sequence at 8:34 in the second period. Frattin took a feed from Genoway and, with Brad Malone screening the goaltender, beat UW senior Scott Gudmandson top shelf from the right circle, another example of a veteran team.
Danny Kristo appeared to deliver the early dagger when he steadied a pass off his right skate and threw a sweeping backhand past Gudmandson at 17:26 in the second, but video review caught glimpse of Derek Rodwell’s right skate in the crease, disallowing the goal.
North Dakota would have to wait another half period before delivering the knockout punch.
Gudmandson deserved a better fate for the second straight night, stopping 39 shots and often sprawling, diving on the ice to cover up the lack of effort that infected his team throughout the weekend.
“It’s not so much effort as it is heart,” assistant captain Jake Gardiner said. “We didn’t always give it.”