With the WCHA season winding down and points at a premium, the No. 11 Wisconsin men's hockey team made a huge step, taking three points from Michigan Tech at Winter Carnival.
The Badgers (9-9-4 WCHA, 13-11-6 overall) rallied Friday night to tie the Huskies (6-10-4, 10-13-5) 1-1 and won 4-1 Saturday.
Wisconsin junior goaltender Shane Connelly was named MVP of the Winter Carnival after allowing only two goals over the weekend series.
He was solid when he needed to be. I don't think he had to make a lot of big saves, he played good angles,"" UW head coach Mike Eaves said. ""He did a nice job on rebound control. I think the thing that set Shane up all weekend was the ability to play the puck when it was dumped in. He was really assertive. He made good decisions and almost acted like a third defenseman for us.""
Friday's game provided plenty of opportunities for Wisconsin. However, the Badgers were unable to convert. Sophomore defenseman Jamie McBain had a shot go off the post, and freshman forward Kyle Turris had a shot get behind Michigan Tech junior goaltender Michael-Lee Teslak that slid through the crease and out the other side.
The Huskies struck first, taking a 1-0 lead at 9:06 in the second period on a goal by winger Bennett Royar. The freshman collected a wide-open pass in front of the net to give MTU the early lead.
Wisconsin tied the game at the 9:55 mark of the third as Turris took a Michigan Tech turnover from the blue line and put a wrist shot past Teslak, his 11th of the season.
This season the Badgers have had a huge lead in the final period of play, outscoring their opponents 42-18, including three goals in the two third periods against the Huskies.
Saturday's match saw Wisconsin jump out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period. Sophomore forward Michael Davies scored on a power play off a back-door pass from McBain and fellow sophomore forward Blake Geoffrion. The goal was Davies' eighth of the season, his fourth on the power play.
""We have a power-play session after every game, we made a couple of adjustments and the power play is what gave us a good start,"" Eaves said. ""We played well in the first period and the power play gave us the first goal.""
Freshman defenseman Cody Goloubef scored his second career goal at the 16:43 mark in the first, just seconds after a UW power play had ended.
Michigan Tech cut the Wisconsin lead in half, with junior defenseman Geoff Kinrade tallying a power-play goal, his second of the season.
But as they have done all season, the Badgers outplayed their opponent in the final stanza, notching two more goals.
The first came from the stick of freshman defenseman Craig Johnson, his first career goal. Johnson has seen significant ice time since fellow freshman defenseman Brendan Smith went down with an injury four weeks ago.
""Shane got the MVP of the tournament, but Craig Johnson got the game puck for his first goal and it was a big goal. It took a lot of pressure off of us,"" Eaves said.
""You saw the reaction on the bench. The guys were really happy for him. It was a snipe. That's the word the guys were using on the bench: a snipe.""
Freshman forward Sean Dolan tallied the fourth and final goal of the night at the 15:24 mark of the third period.
With the three-point weekend, Wisconsin is still tied for fourth place in the WCHA. The only difference is now the Badgers are tied with Minnesota State, who swept Alaska Anchorage last weekend.
Minnesota State visits the Kohl Center next weekend, setting up an interesting matchup with only two weekends of conference play left.
- - The Daily Mining Gazette and uwbadgers.com contributed to this report.