It was a scene unlike any other Friday night, yet nobody could see it. In the strangest hockey scene that most could recall, the lights at the Kohl Center went out with 5:08 left in the third period.
Power remained out and the game between Wisconsin and Minnesota State was postponed, to be finished Saturday night. Wisconsin led 3-1 at the time of the stoppage.
With Badger forward Nick Licari and Maverick defenseman Nate Metcalf fighting in the corner and the puck heading up ice, the power went out and the arena remained pitch-black for at least 20 seconds until the backup generator kicked in.
“I really had no idea what was going on,” Licari said. “I’ve never been a part of a hockey game when anything like this has ever happened.”
“This has to rank right up there [on the list of strange hockey events], to have the lights go out and you can’t see your hand in front of your face,” Eaves said. “They’ll be talking about this for a long time.”
As the lights came back on the two continued to throw punches until the referees pulled them apart and sent them to their respective penalty boxes. Over the next ten minutes the players stretched to stay loose, expecting to finish the game, but it was not to be.
The game was postponed, scheduled to be finished prior to Saturday night’s contest. The two teams will play out the last five minutes and eight seconds of the first game. Then, the ice will be resurfaced and the second game will be played in full.
“It will be pretty weird. We will have to refocus ourselves and make sure we finish out the first five minutes,” Mark Heatley said.
The power outage was local, not just inside the Kohl Center. Power was restored about 20 minutes after the game was postponed.
Another strange scenario could arise with one of Wisconsin’s top players. Senior tri-captain Rene Bourque was scratched from Friday night’s lineup due to illness. The coaches must use the same lineup to finish the game on Saturday, but if he feels better, Bourque could be inserted into the Saturday lineup, making for an interesting situation.
“Perhaps Rene will be ready to play, but will he be allowed to go out for warm-ups?” Eaves said. “I’ve never had to tell a team how to prepare for a five-minute, eight-second period. I suppose it’s like overtime, so we’ll try to prepare in such a way.”
The power outage overshadowed a heated, physical matchup in which Wisconsin dictated play. The Badgers will carry their 3-1 lead into Saturday.
It did not take long for things to get going in the first period. Just one minute and 15 seconds into the game, the puck was knocked away from Badger defender Jeff Likens. Shane Joseph got control, turned around, and fired a prayer that somehow found its way past goalie Bernd Bruckler.
The Badgers evened the game midway through the first on a play by three freshmen. Jake Dowell won a faceoff in the Wisconsin zone which was controlled by Ryan Suter. Suter then fired a shot from the point which was redirected by Heatley past Maverick goalie Jon Volp, tying the game at one.
Physical play continued throughout the period. The referees tried to set the tone, handing out unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties and warning players about activity after the whistle, but that type of play continued throughout the night.
The second period was all Wisconsin, which rattled off more than a dozen shots before the Mavericks got the puck on net and did not allow a goal, despite more than a minute and a half of a five-on-three disadvantage.
The first goal of the period came eight minutes in, during a power play which saw several Badger opportunities. They finally converted when Likens ripped a shot from the right circle past the glove of Volp.
Less than three minutes later the Badgers added to their lead on a controversial goal. Volp hit the deck in an effort to cover the puck but it remained loose in the crease and sophomore Ryan MacMurchy nudged it into the goal. The red light came on early, but the referee never blew his whistle. After a brief discussion the tally counted and the Badgers took the two-goal lead.
Wisconsin continued to dictate for the remainder of the period, outshooting Minnesota State 19-7. Play remained heated and fists flew as the buzzer sounded.
The emotions carried over into the third period. Six penalties were handed out before the game was postponed.
Minnesota State’s offensive woes continued, as the Mavericks did not take advantage on eight power plays. In fact, they mounted just seven power-play shots on goal. They have now converted just six times on 71 power plays this season.
“I think it’s going to be just as intense tomorrow night,” Suter said. “For those first five minutes, and then for the second game especially.”
The energy should carry over, making for another interesting night in which four points will be handed out.