UW feeling mile-high after Denver series

first_imgUW\’s Jordy Murray scores on a wrap-around attempt to give the Badgers a 3-1 lead Saturday. Wisconsin would hang on to win 4-3.[/media-credit]In the biggest game of the season, in front of the biggest crowd of the season, Michael Davies helped the Wisconsin men’s hockey team earn its biggest win of the season so far.Davies’ tip of Justin Schultz’s shot from the right boards gave the No. 3 Badgers a 4-3 lead with 6:30 left to play against the No. 1 Denver Pioneers. UW withstood a final barrage by DU to preserve the win Saturday night, breaking a six-game winless streak against the Pioneers.So once the sellout crowd of 15,237 finished counting down the last five seconds of the game, it meant a number of things.First, the Badgers took three of four points from the Pioneers, after skating to a 3-3 tie the night before. It also kept the Badgers in the thick of the WCHA regular-season title race; UW (14-6-4, 10-5-3 WCHA) is one of five teams separated by two points or fewer atop the standings.And as senior tri-captain Ben Street said, it was redemption for blowing a 3-2 lead with 1:56 to play to Denver the night before, and for coming out flat against Colorado College last Saturday.“I think taking three out of four points from Denver is always a good weekend. We had a bit of a sour taste in our mouth coming back from Colorado Springs,” he said. “We just wanted to play our game, we talked before the game, it was about us. We felt [Friday] night that we kind of were a little bit hesitant and wanted to see what they brought.”The Badgers’ win looked much more certain early in the second period.After a Jordy Murray wrap-around goal at the 6:25 mark in the period, UW had a 3-1 lead over DU, a head of momentum and a raucous crowd behind it.But Denver’s Rhett Rakhshani got the Pioneers to within one with an easy goal around a sprawled Brett Bennett to cut the lead to 3-2. An early third period interference penalty on Ben Grotting allowed DU to tie the game when Tyler Ruegsegger ripped a shot that went five-hole on Bennett.The intensity of the game was apparent in the easily visible momentum shifts.More often than not, it seemed either Denver or Wisconsin had the other team on its heels for extended periods of time.“In a game like this, there are these flow and ebbs where one team’s trying to get up, get the advantage, then the other team fights back,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said. “We had to battle back and stop doing those things and get the momentum back on our side.”“It’s about managing those swings and not getting uptight, not getting too nervous,” Street, who scored the Badgers’ first goal of the game, added. “If you need to take a few icings, take a few icings to slow it down. Definitely tonight with us being up and then them coming back to tie it, there was definitely those momentum swings. I thought we did a good job managing that.”The Badgers also managed something they hadn’t been able to accomplish since last February: they scored on DU goaltender Marc Cheverie.Until Blake Geoffrion was able to redirect a Davies tip at 4:31 of the third period in Friday’s game, Cheverie had a 183-minute shutout streak — spanning parts of four games — going over the Badgers.“I think it was good for our confidence; we had a lot of chances there, a lot of shots. After the first period we talked about getting more bodies to the net because Cheverie was seeing the puck too easy,” Geoffrion said. “It was just good to finally see a puck get by him.”That goal would open the floodgates for the Badgers. Down 2-0 early in the third, UW scored two unanswered goals following Geoffrion’s redirection to take a 3-2 lead. Davies took a beautiful feed from Derek Stepan to tie the game at two, and Geoffrion scored his WCHA-leading 17th goal of the season to give the Badgers the advantage.Seemingly just the sight of a puck getting past Cheverie was enough to spark UW’s confidence.“After their first goal, the building started rocking again,” DU forward Anthony Maiani said. “You knew they were going to get momentum going and it’s a tough thing to do. … It was tough, they took us right out of it.”Maiani tied the game with under two minutes and the teams ended up skating to a tie after overtime. UW goaltender Scott Gudmandson made some crucial saves in the extra period to ensure the Badgers would escape the game with at least a point.“I think the result was what you might expect from two top college teams in the hockey world,” Eaves said. “It was an interesting game, I thought we came out and played pretty well, had some good life, had some good scoring chances.”After breaking Denver’s five-game win streak over UW with Friday’s tie, the Badgers made a statement by hanging on for the win Saturday. Wisconsin’s success over the top-ranked team should mean it gets at least a share of first-place votes in the updated USCHO poll for the first time this season.Eaves made references after the win about national title-caliber play from the Badgers, while Street was content to just comment on the team’s growth.“I thought we responded real well tonight, to win the game like that is huge for our team; it shows maturity.”last_img read more