College Hockey:
Mersch scores twice as No. 8 Wisconsin’s power play awakens in win over Michigan State

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s Michael Mersch has a way of making his goals worth watching a second or third time.

And the Badgers have a way of getting a good result out of the games in which the senior winger scores more than once.

Mersch scored twice in No. 8 Wisconsin’s 5-2 victory over Michigan State on Friday, his 11th collegiate multi-goal game.

The Badgers are 9-1-1 in the last four seasons when Mersch hits the net more than once, and on Friday, they improved to 16-2-1 this season at the Kohl Center.

“Just staying around that net,” Mersch said, “it’s key for scoring goals for me.”

Mersch has earned highlight-reel space recently with a pass to himself and spin for a goal against Michigan, and he contributed another pair of notable efforts on the power play Friday.

He tied the game at 1-1 in the first period when he got his stick on a quick Nic Kerdiles shot, redirecting it past Spartans goaltender Jake Hildebrand (23 saves).

He put Wisconsin ahead for good four minutes into the second period when he dived to poke a rebound of Kerdiles’ shot between Hildebrand’s pads.

“Michael has a propensity to do those things,” Badgers coach Mike Eaves said, “and he did it both ways tonight — a nice one and a sloppy one.”

Even more important than the quality of the goals to Eaves was the power-play production. The Badgers had gone scoreless on the power play in eight of their last 11 games entering Friday, and their power play ranked fifth in the six-team Big Ten at 15.6 percent.

“We have to kind of let go of what our power-play percentage is right now,” Eaves said. “What we need to do is get it going so it becomes a contributing factor to wins. It did that tonight.”

Mersch added an assist on Kerdiles’ empty-net goal for a three-point game, equaling his output from the last nine games combined.

The Mersch goals gave the Badgers their first game with more than one power-play goal since Jan. 3 against Alaska-Anchorage, but their third goal of the night was the backbreaker.

Less than a minute after Badgers goaltender Joel Rumpel (24 saves) robbed Greg Wolfe on the back end of a two-on-one rush, Kevin Schulze sent a cross-ice pass to Mark Zengerle for a shot at a nearly open net with 3.9 seconds remaining in the second period.

“Getting that third goal gave us some separation,” Eaves said.

“To get a goal to get a two-goal lead was big-time there,” Zengerle said. “On the other side of things, though, you get that goal against you, it takes a big blow out of you.”

It was the 15th time this season that the Spartans have allowed a goal in the final two minutes of a regulation period.

Kerdiles’ empty-net goal made it 16 of the 71 goals allowed by Michigan State this season (23 percent) that have come in the final 120 seconds of a period.

“I think we got over it,” Spartans coach Tom Anastos said of Zengerle’s goal late in the second period. “But certainly it’s one of those bad goals that you just can’t give up, and we’ve given up too many of them so far. We lost our poise. We started running around in the zone. We left a guy wide open and he had all the time in the world.”

Lee Reimer put the Spartans (9-14-7, 3-6-6-4 Big Ten) ahead 1-0 with a short-handed goal in the first period, but they saw their unbeaten stretch end at four games and a string of games in which they allowed two goals or fewer end at six.

Wisconsin (18-9-2, 9-5-1) extended its unbeaten streak against Michigan State to seven games (6-0-1) and pulled eight points ahead of Michigan for second place, a spot in the standings that carries a bye to the Big Ten tournament semifinals. The Wolverines, however, have two games in hand.

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