HOUGHTON, Mich. — In the WCHA, if you can hang on to your players for four seasons, you tend to have a solid leadership base. That’s exactly what the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers displayed Saturday night, as a pair of seniors scored goals and another picked up an assist as the Badgers downed the Michigan Tech Huskies, 4-1, at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena. Patrick Johnson picked up a goal and two assists for the Badgers.
“The biggest thing for us tonight is that we felt we played at a higher level,” said Badgers coach Mike Eaves. “We played consistent throughout the game. We were just a much better team tonight.”
The Huskies came out harder than they had on Friday night and had a good chance to score less than 20 seconds into the game when freshman winger Jacob Johnstone skated the puck behind the Badgers’ goal and attempted a wrister from the far side. Badgers goaltender Brett Bennett made the stop.
Once things settled down, the Badgers went to work at firing pucks at Huskies netminder Kevin Genoe. Genoe was equal to the task for the first six minutes of play, including a sequence in which he made two stops on Badgers (19-8-2 overall, 11-7-2 WCHA) forward Podge Turnbull sandwiched around a save on forward Michael Mersch.
Genoe was on his way toward completely flustering the Badgers when forward Mark Zengerle found some open space to Genoe’s left, taking a pass from assistant captain Craig Smith and beating Genoe on the open side at 13:49 of the opening frame. Johnson also assisted on the goal.
To add insult to injury, Huskies co-captain Deron Cousens was whistled after the goal for interference to put the Badgers on a power play for the second time in the game. Fortunately for the Huskies, Smith found himself ejected from the game 20 seconds later after checking Huskies defenseman Steven Seigo and making contact with Seigo’s head.
The Huskies (3-20-3 overall, 1-16-1 WCHA) couldn’t get anything going on the power play, and to make matters worse soon found themselves back down a man for the third time late in the first. It would carry over into the second period, but the Badgers still couldn’t find the net.
With Badgers defenseman John Ramage off for boarding, the Huskies set up their power play with co-captain Brett Olson feeding Cousens along the blue line. Cousens’ shot was blocked by Johnson, who took off with the loose puck. With Olson and Cousens chasing, Johnson skated in and beat Genoe through the wickets at 7:56 of the middle period.
The Huskies responded just 1:02 later while still on a power play when freshman winger Ryan Furne blasted a shot from the high slot through Bennett at 8:44. The goal, Furne’s eighth of the season, was assisted by Seigo, a sophomore, and Cousens.
“With the exception of the shorty, I thought we did some very good things on special teams,” said Huskies coach Jamie Russell. “We did some good things in zone, [but] we really struggled getting set up.”
Looking to tie the game, Johnstone fed freshman defenseman Daniel Sova at the left point. Sova’s shot was stopped, and freshman center Daniel Holmberg snatched up the rebound, attempting a wraparound, but that was stopped by Bennett as well.
The Badgers had a great chance to open up a second two-goal lead with about 3:30 to go in the second when Zengerle screened Genoe during a shot from assistant captain Jake Gardiner; however, Genoe stopped both the shot from Gardiner and the rebound chance by Zengerle.
Captain Sean Dolan gave the Badgers a two-goal lead 7:46 into the third when he took a pass from Johnson and fired a shot from the right circle that beat Genoe over his glove. Ramage also assisted on the goal.
“Before the game, we talked with [Sean] Dolan’s unit,” said Eaves. “We said, ‘You guys are doing good things; just keep going in the right directions and the offensive stuff will come in.’”
After the Huskies had their fourth power play of the night, the Badgers opened up a three-goal lead when defenseman Justin Schultz fired a shot from the left point that beat Genoe along the ice at 12:21. Zengerle fed Schultz at the point before skating in front of Genoe to cause another traffic jam in front of the Huskies’ goalie.
The Huskies went one-for-four on the power play on the night, but they also surrendered a short-handed marker. The Badgers were held to zero-for-five.
Bennett made 21 saves en route to his fifth win of the season. Genoe made 26 saves in suffering his 10th loss.
Interview with Mike Eaves
Interview with Jamie Russell