It was a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this weekend for the Wisconsin men's hockey team, which rebounded from one of its worst efforts of the season to salvage a series split with No. 4 St. Cloud State.
The No. 3 Badgers (14-7-3 WCHA, 19-8-4 overall) got off to a slow start Friday night and never seemed to recover on their way to a 5-1 loss. St. Cloud led 1-0 after the first period before junior forward Derek Stepan rifled a one-timer from senior forward Michael Davies past junior Huskie goaltender Dan Dunn to tie the game at 1 at the start of the second period. Stepan added a goal and three assists Saturday to finish the weekend series with five points.
St. Cloud stormed back two minutes later when junior goaltender Scott Gudmandson gambled and lost, trying to prevent a Huskie breakaway. Wandering from his crease to clear the puck out of the Wisconsin zone, Gudmandson popped the puck into the possession of Huskie junior forward Garrett Roe, who breezed to an easy goal.
""If I didn't go out and play that puck, he would have been on a clear-cut breakaway,"" Gudmandson said. ""If I were to do it again I probably would have gone out and tried to fire that.""
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves refused to place the blame on Gudmandson for the play, but conceded that the goal took the raucous home crowd out of the game.
""[The fans] were into it, and it hurt, it was one of our errors that cost us a goal,"" Eaves said.
Wisconsin largely outplayed St. Cloud for the remainder of the game but failed to convert on its ample scoring opportunities. The Huskies, meanwhile, snuck in two goals in the last two minutes of the second period to go up 4-1 and cruised to a lopsided 5-1 victory.
The start of Saturday night's game wasn't much of an improvement, as St. Cloud scored just over a minute into the game to go up 1-0. This time, however, the explosive Badger offense fought right back behind a tremendous effort from the seven seniors playing their final regular-season game at the Kohl Center. Davies started the scoring barrage on the Badgers' first power play of the game, rocketing a rebound past Huskie freshman goaltender Mike Lee to tie the game at 1.
""We just played like the way we've been playing all year,"" Davies said. ""[Friday] night we got away from that a little bit, we put the puck in the net [Saturday].""
While Davies' goal helped set the tone for Wisconsin, his lone assist set up the most crucial score of the night. Fresh off a St. Cloud score that cut the Wisconsin lead to 3-2 with less than a minute left in the second period, Davies fired a cross-ice pass to fellow senior forward Ben Street, who made a nice move on Lee and slid the puck into the open net as time expired in the period.
""I got pretty lucky, but it felt good because they scored in the last minute and it seemed like the momentum was shifting their way to go into the locker room,"" Street said.
The Badgers added three more goals in the third period to clinch a 7-4 victory and a series split. Although Saturday's win was impressive, Street stressed the importance of consistency as the Badgers approach the WCHA and NCAA tournaments.
""Overall on the weekend that's not really going to get it done,"" Street said. ""Especially coming down to the end here if you don't win Friday you don't play Saturday.""