If there was any question as to what a series between two premier college hockey teams should look like, the No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers and No. 1 Denver Pioneers provided a clear answer at the Kohl Center this weekend. After battling back from a two-goal deficit in a frantic third period to force a tie on Friday night, Wisconsin took to the ice on Saturday in front of a sell-out crowd and grabbed an early lead. Denver clawed back into the game late, but senior forward Michael Davies notched the game winner for the Badgers with less than seven minutes to play, earning UW a three-point weekend while solidifying a spot in the thick of the conference championship race.
""Everything is elevated when the rankings are so high and there is a little bit more on the line,"" senior forward and captain Ben Street said.
Wisconsin looked like the more aggressive team in the opening moments on Friday, but failed to capitalize due to some stingy defense from the Pioneers. After scoring a goal late in the first period and skating scoreless through the second, Denver extended its lead to two goals in the first two minutes of the third.
The Badgers, however, got an answer from senior forward and captain Blake Geoffrion. After failing to convert on five straight power-play chances, Wisconsin broke into the scorebooks when Geoffrion re-directed a shot from Davies and found the back of the net. The goal snapped a 183-minute scoreless streak against the Pioneers and sparked a ferocious comeback. Davies tied the game at the 7:15 mark of the third and Geoffrion tallied his second goal of the period just a minute and half later, giving Wisconsin the lead and threatening to blow the roof off the Kohl Center.
""I'm happy with the way we battled back and stayed with it,"" Davies said. ""Everything just started going in.""
Denver came back and tied the game with less than two minutes left, forcing an overtime that presented scoring opportunities for both teams, but ultimately resulted in a 3-3 draw.
Saturday, the script flipped as the Badgers drew first blood. Street scored from the middle of the ice off of a pass through traffic from Davies, who had the puck below the left goal line extended. Davies, who would later add the game winner, drew high praise from head coach Mike Eaves after the game.
""Michael is really playing well,"" Eaves said. ""He's playing with a great deal of confidence right now, doing a lot of little things that you like to see a senior do, and its becoming very effective for us.""
After Denver tied the game at 1-1, Wisconsin took a two-goal lead in the second period with goals from freshman forward Craig Smith and sophomore forward Jordy Murray. The Pioneers mounted another comeback, tying the game 6:36 into the third period.
""Every game has momentum swings, it's just how you manage them,"" Street said. ""With us being up and them coming back to tie it, I thought we did a pretty good job of managing that.""
Davies' game-winning goal came off of a faceoff in the Wisconsin offensive zone. After winning the faceoff, the puck slid to freshman defenseman Justin Schultz, who ripped a shot to the far side, where Davies re-directed it past Denver junior goalie Marc Cheverie, igniting the crowd and capping off a satisfying weekend of hockey for the Badgers.""Taking three out of four points from Denver is always a good weekend,"" Street said. ""To win the game like that is huge for our team.""
""That's championship-level material,"" Eaves said.