MADISON — For most of Saturday night, Wisconsin’s first period goal was holding up as the difference in a 1-0 game. Then, a quick flurry in the final period saw Minnesota State (10-11-5, 4-11-3 WCHA) tie the game briefly, only to have Craig Smith (Madison, Wis.) score to retake the lead for good in the Badgers 2-1 victory in front of a sold out Kohl Center.
Wisconsin (17-8-3, 9-7-2 WCHA) capitalized on a first period power play to gain a 1-0 lead. Jake Gardiner (Minnetonka, Minn.) took a slapshot from the point. Jordy Murray (Faribault, Minn.) was stationed in front of the net and knocked in his second attempt at the rebound. The goal gave the Badgers the lead at 12:31 of the first period.
The rest of the first period and the second period passed scoreless, but not without each team getting a multitude of chances. Twelve penalties were called in the first two periods, resulting in four power play chances for the Mavericks and five for the Badgers, as well as a number of 4-on-4s. Scott Gudmandson (Sherwood Park, Alberta) continued his stellar play for the Badgers, including a number of big saves.
In the third period, Minnesota State tied the game. Joe Schiller skated the puck down toward the net and scored the puck over Gudmandson’s glove. The goal came at 3:44 of the third period, and would keep the game tied at 1-1 for a mere 39 seconds.
The play started in the Badger zone, with Justin Schultz (West Kelowna, B.C) passing the puck to fellow defenseman Jake Gardiner. Gardiner sent a long pass down the ice, setting up Craig Smith for a breakaway. With a defender on his heels, Smith stickhandled around the goaltender for his WCHA-leading fifth game-winning goal.
The Badgers had to hang on tightly to the lead the rest of the way, as Minnesota State outshot them 17-4 in the final stanza. The Mavericks had their opportunities, including one puck that struck the crossbar and deflected wide, and a tense final minute with the Minnesota State net empty. Scott Gudmandson continued to deny every Maverick shot, and Wisconsin prevailed for the victory.
Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz each recorded two assists on the day. Minnesota State outshot the Badgers 35-29 for the game. The Badgers were 1-for-6 on the power play, while holding the Mavericks to 0-for-5 on the advantage.
Scott Gudmandson made 34 saves and improved his record to 13-6-1. Austin Lee stopped 27 shots for Minnesota State, but fell to 2-2-2 on the year.
The Badgers travel to Houghton, Mich., next week to take on Michigan Tech. The puck drops Friday and Saturday night at 6 p.m. (CT).