MADISON, Wis. – Without its best offensive weapon for the second straight night and getting pushed physically once again, No. 13 Wisconsin needed somebody to make a move. One of the many players disappointed with his Friday night performance, Jake McCabe, picked the right time to fill the void.
McCabe scored the first and the game-winning tally for the Badgers, who salvaged their weekend series against former-WCHA for Alaska-Anchorage with a 4-3 victory Saturday night at the Kohl Center.
“I think everyone was a little let down after last night,” said McCabe, who posted his first career multi-goal game. “We just got dominated in all aspects. Tonight was a good response. It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done. That’s the only thing that really matters.”
Tyler Barnes and Eddie Wittchow also scored for the Badgers (11-6-1), who rebounded from their first home loss of the season against a team that hadn’t won on the road up until last night.
“We knew how they were going to come out again,” said Barnes. “It was still a back-and-forth period. They were bringing a lot at us, but we went back to our game plan.”
The plan involved keeping pucks out of the zone, throwing pucks into the corners and taking chances at the net. After Blake Tatchell scored his seventh of the season, an even-strength goal off a give-and-go, to give the Seawolves a 1-0 lead, Wisconsin piled on its response at the end of the period.
It started with McCabe, who finally got a nine-game scoreless streak off his back. Executing a little cross-over fake at the blue line, McCabe weaved through two Seawolves with some fancy stickhandling before flicking a backhander glove side at 18:26.
“He’s one of our leaders,” said Barnes. “He got us going.”
McCabe finished the job, too. Looking to center the puck after the midway point of the third period, McCabe’s pass that was intended for Barnes bounced off Tatchell’s skate and past UAA goalie Chris Kamal (20 saves) for the decisive tally at 6:27 of the third.
“I wish they were all that easy,” said McCabe. “It’s nice to get puck luck on your side. It hasn’t been in our favor the last couple games. Hockey gods were on our side tonight.”
McCabe’s night spoiled the night of UAA forward Matt Bailey, who scored his ninth and 10th goals of the season in the second period to give Alaska-Anchorage (9-9-2) a 3-2 lead. Bailey’s first goal was the result of out-muscling defenseman Kevin Schulze for a short-handed tally, and the second was a missile from the slot as a result of a poor Wisconsin shift.
The Seawolves were trying to sweep the Badgers for the first time since January 1999.
“The momentum kind of shifted and they got that short-handed goal,” said McCabe. “It took all the atmosphere out of the building. We were scrambling a little bit. Guys were freaking out, but we regained our poise again.”
Barnes added a goal in his fifth straight game with 21.1 left in the first period to give Wisconsin its first lead. Getting the pick on the breakout, Matt Pappe went to the net, taking a Seawolves defenseman with him to create an open zone for Barnes to rifle a shot into the back of the net.
“I’m getting the opportunities,” said Barnes. “Being successful right now, it helps carry over in the back of your mind.”
Wisconsin needed an extra lift considering the Badgers were without their best player for the second straight night. After his flight was delayed coming from Sweden at World Juniors, causing him to be scratched, sophomore Nic Kerdiles stumbled as he reached for the puck, having his right skate dig into the ice, and tumbling him hard into the boards.
Kerdiles left the ice midway through the first period and didn’t return, watching from behind the glass with his pads off and holding an ice bag on his shoulder, and forced Eaves to jumble and rotate most of his lines.
That made Wisconsin’s victory all that more important with the Badgers jumping into Big Ten play against No. 7 Michigan next weekend.
“Good response by the guys,” said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, “finding a way to win under adverse conditions.”