Wisconsin dominated play Friday night and benefitted from timely goals Saturday to finish off its six-game homestand with a sweep of Alaska-Anchorage.
Freshman forward Craig Smith and senior forward Aaron Bendickson led the offensive onslaught for the Badgers Friday, lifting them to a 5-1 victory over the Seawolves.
Smith began the scoring for Wisconsin (4-3-1 WCHA, 6-3-1 overall) just 14 seconds after the puck dropped Friday by intercepting an errant UAA clearing attempt and backhanding it past senior goaltender Jon Olthuis. The goal was Smith's first goal as a Badger, and head coach Mike Eaves explained the importance of Smith establishing himself as a consistent scorer.
""[Smith is] a young man that is used to getting points and scoring, and it was good for him to get that,"" Eaves said. ""It gets back that feeling, and we need for him to get that feeling.""
Smith tallied another point midway through the first period after feeding junior defenseman Cody Goloubef from behind the net, who then fired a wrist shot over Olthuis' glove.
In a game plagued by penalties (each team accumulated over 30 minutes in the penalty box), an aggressive Wisconsin penalty kill provided numerous opportunities for the Badgers. With 5:36 remaining in the game, senior forward Ben Street streaked up the right boards and wristed a shot at the net. After Olthuis gave up a rebound, Bendickson was there to deflect it in for his second goal of the game and Wisconsin's first shorthanded goal of the season.
Junior goaltender Brett Bennett got the start between the pipes for the Badgers and made a critical save late in the first to suffocate any breath of hope the Seawolves had.
With UAA on a five-on-three advantage, an overaggressive Wisconsin penalty kill was caught out of position after junior captain Ryan McDonagh wristed a shot off the post from deep in the zone. The Seawolves collected the rebound and led a two-on-none break up ice. Bennett extended his left pad to the post to turn away a bid from junior Craig Parkinson and keep the Wisconsin lead at two.
Senior Michael Davies also added a power-play goal for the Badgers midway through the second period.
Wisconsin continued to click offensively Saturday night, and a few timely goals by Street and Smith took momentum away from the Seawolves' attack, allowing the Badgers to earn a 6-2 victory.
UAA struck first Saturday night thanks to senior forward Josh Lunden's fourth goal of the season. The lead was short-lived, though, as senior forward Ben Grotting elevated a saucer pass through the zone to find a streaking Street, who buried a shot past junior goaltender Bryce Christianson just 11 seconds later.
Early in the third period, with the Badgers leading 3-1, Lunden added his second goal of the game, cutting the deficit to one. Again, Wisconsin responded. Smith added his second goal of the weekend after driving down the left boards, working his way past UAA senior captain Jared Tuton and beating Christianson with a backhand to make it 4-1.
""People will look at the box score and see, well, it was 6-2 ... they must have dominated the whole game,"" Eaves said of the importance of responding quickly. ""Those two critical moments were turning points.""
The Badgers were able to hold UAA to just 13 shots Saturday night, in part because of the effort and leadership of McDonagh.
""Ryan led the parade in [only allowing 13 shots]. He's so strong, and no one got near our goalie,"" Eaves said.
Junior Scott Gudmandson started in goal for Wisconsin Saturday night and admitted that playing behind a strong defense is, at times, mentally challenging, especially when only facing 13 shots.
""It's mentally tough on you. You've got to try and stay focused the whole time, and I need to do a little bit better of a job doing that,"" Gudmandson said.
Senior forward Blake Geoffrion, junior forward Patrick Johnson and freshman defenseman Justin Schultz also tallied goals for the Badgers. Street added his second goal of the game with 12 seconds remaining.
With the sweep, the Badgers improve their record against UAA to 9-0-1 in the teams' last 10 meetings.
Wisconsin will travel to St. Cloud State next weekend for a two-game series with the Huskies.