COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — If there was anyone left in the country that thought Wisconsin still had something to prove, they just needed to catch a five-minute span during the opening period here Saturday night to see just how dominant the Badgers are this season.
No. 1-ranked Wisconsin scored four times on a five-minute power play and tacked on two more goals in the first period, running away with a 9-1 Saturday night rout and a weekend sweep of host No. 5 Colorado College. In the process, the Badgers solidified their strong hold on the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.
“We have an analogy that we’re trying to get to the top of a mountain,” UW coach Mike Eaves said. “This is just a good day of climbing.”
UW now sits eight points ahead of Minnesota and Denver, which are tied for second place, and nine ahead of the Tigers.
CC defenseman Brian Salcido checked Jake Dowell from behind seven minutes into the game, garnering himself a five-minute major and a game-misconduct penalty. Wisconsin made him pay dearly, scoring four times on the ensuing man-advantage.
“[It was a] total surprise,” Eaves said.
Andrew Joudrey opened up the floodgates just 22 seconds into the power play, deflecting home a wrister from the point from Joe Pavelski. It was Pavelski’s first of four assists in the opening period.
“You definitely want to get at least one goal,” Joudrey said when asked what a team can expect when given a five-minute power play. “You want to capitalize and at least make them pay once.”
Ryan MacMurchy doubled the lead a minute and a half later with a one-time blazer from the left circle and defenseman Tom Gilbert made it 3-0 by snagging a blocked shot and depositing it to the left of CC goalie Matt Zaba at 10:18.
“You expect to get one or two goals off it if you can,” Pavelski said. “We just couldn’t do anything wrong.”
Zaba was pulled less than a minute later when Joudrey got his second of the night to put the Badgers up 4-0 less than 12 minutes into the game. The CC netminder made just four saves before relinquishing his duties.
“I’ve seen two or three [goals on a five-minute power play] at the max, but I’d have to go deep into my archives,” Eaves said.
Jack Skille and Robbie Earl each got in the action over the next few minutes, beating junior goalie Chris Kawano as UW waltzed into the locker room up 6-0.
“The lanes were open and it was one of the nights where the puck found the back of the net,” Earl said.
Eaves said there was still a sense of nervousness in the locker room in the first intermission because this type of game is something a team does not prepare for.
When the teams traded a goal apiece in the second period, it was all but over, and the Badgers tacked on two more in the third, including Pavelski’s first goal and fifth point of the night.
Wisconsin finished 4-of-6 on the power play while shutting out a CC unit that is one of the best in the country.
“We’re hitting our strides at the right time to have our power play go,” Earl said. “It’s about time, we’ve had our chances and now we’re just capitalizing on [them].”
UW goalie Brian Elliott made 20 saves, as did the CC backup Kawano, though the latter gave up five goals in more than 48 minutes worth of action.
The rout, coupled with the Denver Broncos’ NFL playoff game Saturday night, drove much of the sellout crowd home early. As a result, Badger fans all but took over the World Arena.
“It was amazing, unbelievable,” Earl said when asked if he heard the UW fans. “That shows a lot about this program.”
The Badgers’ top line of Adam Burish, Earl and Pavelski finished with three goals and nine assists. Ryan MacMurchy got his 100th point as a Badger and defensemen Matt Olinger and Davis Drewiske each finished at +3 on the night.
“It was a different feeling,” Pavelski said. “You don’t expect these nights. When they started going in, you just gain confidence.”
The recipe for winning a league championship is to hold serve at home and to steal points from teams on the road. The Badgers have their own formula: win everywhere.
Wisconsin is now 18-2-2—a mid-January record that is without match in school history—and is undefeated (9-0-1) on the road.
“I think on the road you’re more as a team. You’re together all the time and it feels like a business trip,” Earl said. “I think that’s really helped keep us focused.”
But while the Badgers have enjoyed success, they only have to look back to a year ago to know what can happen down the stretch. They will not be relaxing.
“There’s potentially a lot of storms still ahead of us and we have to stay diligent,” Eaves said. “We know where we want to be at the end of the year and we have a long way to climb yet.”
Wisconsin returns home next weekend looking to stretch its WCHA lead even further when it hosts No. 18 Denver, which split with St. Cloud State this weekend.
Box score (pdf)