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After battling back from an early three-goal deficit to force a 3-3 tie Friday, No.13 Wisconsin had its best offensive output of the season, plastering No.12 Lake Superior State, 8-1, on Saturday.
What’s the Impact
Two weeks after being outscored 16-5 on the road to a pair of ranked team on the East Coast, Wisconsin proved that it has the makings of a team that can be elite by taking three points from a talented Lake Superior State team who started off the season 4-0-0.
Who was the Weekend MVP
There are a lot of seniors on this year’s team (none to be exact) and none more underappreciated than second-line defenseman Joe Faust. Faust, who had just eight career points in his first three seasons (including just one point last year in 42 games), is one of the team’s many grinders, but his offensive couldn’t be ignored on the weekend.
After assisting on UW’s second goal Friday, Faust registered his first multi-point game of his career with three assists on Saturday.
Three Areas of Concern
Boston Hangover: Whether it was a Boston Hangover or rust from a week off, Wisconsin falling into a 3-0 deficit just 4:09 into the first period of game one has to be a concern. The Badgers allowed a goal at 33 seconds, a power-play goal at 3:32 and another goal shortly after to send off the red flags.
“I felt like we were in Boston again, because the goals they scored were like the ones in Boston, said Eaves. “It felt like, ‘Holy smokes, we still haven’t got the demons from Boston out of our system yet.’”
Health of Rumpel: Junior Landon Peterson played well on the weekend after the initial Friday surge by Lake Superior State, stopping 43 of 47 shots, but the junior Joel Rumpel has missed his last four games with an ankle injury. It’s early in the season and UW needs Rumpel to be ready for conference play, but having missed four games and having not played in three weeks is a little disconcerting.
Attendance: The Kohl Center was less than half full of Friday night (7,022) and marginally better on Saturday (10,082). With no home football or basketball game, one would think a team as talented as this would have drawn a bigger crowd.
Three Areas of Excitement
Redirection: Wisconsin’s senior-laden teams in past seasons have been successful because those veterans have the wherewithal and the intuitiveness to redirect pucks at the net. That trait was vital Friday, as Michael Mersch (UW’s leading scorer a year ago) redirected Jake McCabe’s shot from the right point to get UW on the board in the first period.
In the third, Tyler Barnes redirected a Mark Zengerle shot to bring UW back within one and Mersch got a piece of a McCabe shot late in the third period, deflecting the puck to a wide-open Barnes to tie the score with 1:22 remaining.
“If you look, the last two goals were tip-ins,” Eaves said. “We did what we needed to do to give ourselves a chance to score and that was getting pucks and bodies at the net.”
Harnessing Momentum: Piggybacking off what Wisconsin did in the series opener, the Badgers wanted to carry the momentum forward, something that had eluded them since the season-opening weekend, into Saturday night’s game. The result was the Badgers outscoring the Lakers 11-1 over the final 135:51 and outshooting the Lakers 88-47 for the weekend.
“I think we built off what we did (Friday) night,” said senior defensemen and captain Frankie Simonelli. “The way we finished the game last night is where we started tonight.”
Red Hot: With his second-period goal on Saturday, sophomore Nic Kerdiles extended his point-scoring streak to 18 games, dating to last season. He added the final score in the last minute on a shorthander. The sophomore now has the third-longest scoring streak in school history, behind Eaves (21 games, 1977-78 season) and teammate Mark Zengerle (20, 2011-12).
“(Kerdiles) is one of those guys that the puck follows,” Eaves said. “I mean, the last goal, he’s cutting across the ice, it’s flipped up in the air, he puts it down, takes a shot and it goes in. Stuff happens when Nic’s on the ice.”
“It’s a nice way to end a weekend. I think that’s what the doctor ordered for a lot of our guys … It was a type of weekend I think our boys needed to get going and to realize some things. We can move forward from here now.” – Eaves following Saturday’s victory.
On a bye for the second time in three weeks, Wisconsin will head to Oxford, OH, to be a talented Miami squad in a tough road venue. The Redhawks (5-2-1) are part of the new six-team National Collegiate Hockey Association and swept a home series with Canisius last weekend. Miami will play at former-WCHA for St. Cloud State this weekend before hosting Wisconsin.
Miami – ranked sixth in the last week’s USCHO poll – have made the NCAA tournament the last eight seasons, including back-to-back Frozen Four appearances in 2009 and 2010. Wisconsin leads the all-time series 3-1-0 and split a pair of games in Madison this past January. The two teams have never met in Oxford.