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Saturday, May 18, 2024
Offense carries Wisconsin to sweep

Davies: Senior forward Michael Davies led a lethal power-play effort for UW this weekend, scoring two goals Friday.

Offense carries Wisconsin to sweep

Whenever Wisconsin faces Minnesota State, a few things are almost certain. Both sides will deliver their share of hits, elbows and shots, and there would be more than a few post-whistle mêlées or shoving matches.

Why would this weekend be any different?

The Badgers took four points from the Mavericks by series' end, matching their hard-hitting style and unleashing a dynamic power play led by a pair of explosive and  talented scorers.

Wisconsin took a while to get going on Friday and had to hang on in the end. Saturday also featured an early setback before head coach Mike Eaves' squad rained a torrent of goals upon the Maverick netminders.

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But what stood out both nights was the rough play that typifies Maverick hockey.

""I think it was pretty much what we expected. You knew that was the biggest part of their game, if they play hard they get themselves a chance to win,"" senior forward Ben Grotting said. ""Talking with the guys in the locker room, we knew that we had to match that and then our skill would take over.""

For the first 35 minutes of the weekend, however, taking over looked like the last thing Wisconsin would do.

The Badgers generated more shots and scoring chances to that point Friday night, but all they had to show for it was a 1-0 deficit, courtesy of sophomore wing Mike Louwerse, who made a pretty move in the crease to score.

Then the Wisconsin special teams came to life.

Senior forwards Michael Davies and Blake Geoffrion both scored or assisted on three power play goals in a late-period surge. Wisconsin scored first with a 5-on-3 advantage and then scored again before the Mavericks could return to full strength. Up to that point, Wisconsin had struggled against a pressuring penalty kill unit.

""I thought we did a pretty good job, we were 0-for-7 at one point in time until they did score,"" Minnesota State head coach Troy Jutting, whose team took 40 penalty minutes, said. ""A 5-on-3 in this league is difficult, especially when you've got the type of skilled players Wisconsin's got.""

Senior forward Aaron Bendickson extended the lead to 4-1 with a shorthanded tally, but the Mavericks answered with a shorthander of their own. With a minute left, MSU cut the deficit to one after junior Badger defenseman Ryan McDonagh tossed the puck out of the crease, drawing a penalty shot over the Wisconsin coach's protests. Senior forward Kael Mouillierat converted, but the Badgers held on for a 4-3 win.

The next night tensions boiled over early.

Minnesota State scored on its first shot, but senior forward Andy Bohmbach answered after a hesitation move on a 2-on-1 rush. Six minutes in fighting broke out, sending five players to the penalty box including MSU senior center Jerad Stewart with a 5-minute major for grabbing a facemask.

In the aftermath of the clash, Geoffrion found the far post with a cross-crease shot while both sides were called for numerous contact to the head and roughing penalties hroughout the night.

From there, Wisconsin pushed the lead to 4-1, and finally 8-4 as head coach Mike Eaves got more contributions from Geoffrion (assisting on a transition goal and scoring one more time) and Bohmbach who set up a pair of UW rushes with well placed breakout passes.

""Terrific,"" Eaves said of Bohmbach's day. ""He looked fast out there, and that's not one of those things that you would say everyday about Andy, but he looked like he had speed and anticipation ... It was really fun to see.""

The weekend was a big one for the Badger special teams, as Wisconsin scored six times with the man advantage as well as a pair of shorthanded goals. Geoffrion and Davies, both stalwarts of the power play, combined for five goals and seven assists in the two games.

Both coaches and players said that having the special teams clicking would be key for their drive toward the end of the season, which continues next weekend with St. Cloud State.

Geoffrion said early that he did not look at individual numbers, but the day before Valentine's Day, he did profess affection for another kind of number.

""I'm all over the standings, love the standings,"" he said. ""Every weekend it's not an easy game to take off or easy team to play ... especially here this time of the year when it's so tight and four teams could pretty much win [the WCHA], so I think the guys are focusing on that all the time and just knowing that we have to come out each night and play hard and play our game.""

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