Another uplifting series for Wisconsin against former WCHA rival Colorado College. The Badgers scored the final three goals on Friday for a 4-1 victory and came back with a 4-3 overtime victory on Saturday for the sweep.
What's the Impact
The Badgers moved up one spot in the USCHO poll to No.14, starting to regain some traction after a frustrating start to the season. UW is now 8-5-1, its fewest losses at the break since 2009-10. Only Eaves Era clubs with fewer were 05-06 (2) and 03-04 (3).
Who was the Weekend MVPs Sophomore Nic Kerdiles. Kerdiles actually could have been the goat on Friday after he made a poor pass after a way-too-long shift that led to a shorthanded goal, but made up for it with the game-winning goal with 1.1 seconds remaining in the second period. It was a long day in general for Kerdiles, who had to present a 12-page paper and take an exam earlier in the day.
"Clear the mechanism, that's what coach Eaves said," said Kerdiles. "That's what I did and got ready for the game."
Areas of Concern
Slow Starts: Colorado College isn't the same program that Wisconsin hockey fans are used to, as the Tigers 2-12-3 record following the weekend would indicate. So UW getting outscored a combined 2-0 both nights has to be a little disconcerting. The Badgers are 5-1-0 on the season when leading after the first period, but are 3-4-1 when behind or trailing entering the first intermission. Against better teams, UW can't afford early stumbles.
Three Areas of Excitement
Special Performances: In addition to Kerdiles scoring the game-winning goal, the sophomore drew three penalties, which led to two power play goals. Wisconsin also maintained momentum by killing off four-and-a-half straight minutes of power play midway through the third period, including two 5-on-3s for 56 seconds and 52 seconds.
On Saturday, Wisconsin, nor CC, was whistled for a penalty, marking the first time since Feb. 24, 1967 that the Badgers have gone without being whistled.
Home Cooking: A year ago, the Badgers went 9-7-3 at the Kohl Center, hardly a record to excite the home crowd. Although attendance is down (UW had less than 8,000 fans on Friday) Wisconsin improved to 7-0-1 this season. Maybe that will bring the crowd out again.
Mersch Heating Up: Senior forward Michael Mersch scored a goal in his fifth consecutive game, and sixth in seven contests on Saturday night, piggybacking off a two-goal, five-shot performance the night before. His goal Friday gave him 100 points for his career, making him the 72nd player in school history to reach that mark. Earning his first Big Ten honor, Mersch is the Big Ten leader with 10 goals this season, and ranks seventh in the nation with a 0.71 goals-per-game scoring average.
Mersch's goal Saturday was the third of the period for UW, helping the Badgers erase a 2-0 deficit coming out of the first intermission.
"I thought they were smart and they were composed on their penalty kill. They stayed together in structure. They bent a teeny bit, but didn't break." - Tigers coach Scott Owens said of Wisconsin, who swept CC at home for the first time since 1993.
After a bye this week, Wisconsin hits the midpoint of its 12-game home stand when it hosts Alabama-Huntsville Dec.27-28. The Chargers are playing their first season in the WCHA after playing as an independent for the last three seasons, and almost having their program shutdown.
The Chargers (1-17-0, 1-11-0 WCHA) are having a tough transition this season, losing their first 15 games before winning a 4-3 overtime decision at Bowling Green Dec.7. Alabama-Huntsville has also been shutout seven times this season and also has the weekend off before playing UW.
The Badgers are a perfect 8-0-0 against the Chargers, with all the meetings coming in Madison. UW swept a series against Alabama-Huntsville last season, outscoring the Chargers 9-1 during the series.