Senior forward Aaron Bendickson says he is not a spotlight type of guy, that he doesn't like a whole lot of attention. It would be hard to imagine, however, that he did not enjoy his final seven minutes at the Kohl Center. The center scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season in a 12-second span to put the game out of reach in the third period and send the Badgers to the WCHA Final Five next weekend in St. Paul.
Fellow senior center Blake Geoffrion added two goals of his own as the graduating class combined for five goals and 12 points as the Badgers pulled away from a scrappy Alaska-Anchorage team on the brink of elimination by scoring five times in the final 22minutes.
After Geoffrion opened the scoring three minutes into the contest and senior winger Michael Davies extended the lead later in the first, the Seawolves grabbed momentum back with a goal that came seconds after the Badgers killed off a two-man advantage.
When the Seawolves knotted the game at two in the second period, UW head coach Mike Eaves said he thought his team was on the ropes.
""We were dogpaddling,"" he said. ""During the TV timeout we talked to they guys and said ‘we knew this was going to happen, they're fighting for their lives.'""
Sophomore forward Derek Stepan pushed the Badgers back ahead with a power-play conversion and freshman defenseman Justin Schultz added another power-play goal just over a minute later. Those goals served two purposes as they kick started the team as a whole and also a power-play unit that had gone 18 chances without a goal.
""That settled us down and gave us our feet back under us again,"" Eaves said.
Despite going 0-for-8 with a man-advantage on Friday night, the Badgers put together a gritty effort and earned a 4-1 victory in a slow-paced game. In a best-of-three format, getting the first game is always important, and afterwards, Davies said he would take it post-season victories however they came.
""We'll definitely take the win but at the same time that definitely was not our best hockey,"" he said. ""We have to be better tomorrow, we know what we have to do, and it's just all about execution.""
Davies and the rest of his teammates were better on Saturday, and avoided having to play a game three on Sunday night. Denver also wrapped up business on Saturday by sweeping Michigan Tech at home, but the other six WCHA teams had to play on Sunday to set the field for the WCHA Final Five.
""This is a good step to get the ball rolling in the playoffs here,"" Stepan said. ""We just have to continue to play hard and play simple and get ourselves ready for next weekend.""
For Bendickson and his fellow seniors, it might have been even a little more than that, getting two final victories at the Kohl Center before hitting the road in search of a WCHA tournament title and ultimately a national championship.
""I got a little chill, actually,"" said Bendickson, who had three goals in the series. ""It's kind of flown by for all of us and we're a tight group. It's going to be tough not playing here anymore but we got out of here with a couple of wins and that's a good way to go out.""