This season’s opening series for the Wisconsin men’s hockey (0-2-0 overall) team didn’t go quite as well as it had hoped.
Fast starts and late goals allowed were the storylines of the weekend for the Badgers, whose Friday and Saturday night games both unraveled in the third period.
Starting off with a vengeance Friday night, the Badgers outshot Northern Michigan (2-0-0 overall) 10-6 in the first period and were able to successfully kill three NMU power plays early on.
That was due in large part to the effort of junior forward Mark Zengerle, who had a pair of blocked shots during the third NMU power play to preserve Wisconsin’s shutout.
Another junior forward, Michael Mersch, put his mark on the game soon afterward by scoring to put the Badgers up with 7:18 left in the second period, leaving the score at 1-0 heading into the game’s last 20 minutes.
That was where things started to come apart at the seams for the Badgers.
Wisconsin’s momentum and one-goal lead were lost 18 seconds into the third period when a mad scramble for the puck in front of the Badgers’ goal led to NMU sophomore forward Reed Seckel tying things up 1-1.
With about 10 minutes left in the game, sophomore goaltender Joel Rumpel’s great diving save left the net open, and a heads-up-hooking penalty by sophomore forward Matt Paape was all that stood between NMU and the lead.
Eventually, a minute later on their fourth power play of the night, the Wildcats took the lead on a botched pass that deflected off a skate and into the net. Northern Michigan sophomore forward Cohen Adair was credited with the goal.
A couple of last-minute saves solidified the win for Northern Michigan.
Saturday’s game kicked off in similar fashion, with the Badgers scoring just three minutes into the game and outshooting NMU 12-5 at the conclusion of the first period.
After junior defenseman Frankie Simonelli found the net early, Northern Michigan’s junior goaltender Jared Coreau held off the aggressive Badgers, recording 11 saves in the first period.
With momentum on their side, the Wildcats outshot Wisconsin 14-6 and equalized the score in the second period.
The tying goal, courtesy of Adair, served as a reminder to the Badgers that there was still a period of hockey left to play.
Within 20 seconds of the beginning of the third period, Zengerle found the back of the net and put the Badgers ahead once again, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Wildcats down for long.
Another NMU power play with eight minutes left to play allowed former Badger and current NMU sophomore forward Matt Thurber to tie things up again.
Without any wasted time, Wildcat senior forward Kory Kaunisto put NMU ahead for the first time in the game just 17 seconds after the tying goal was scored.
An empty net goal from the Wildcats with a minute left to play put the game away for the second consecutive night, leaving the Badgers wondering what went wrong.
Wisconsin will have two weeks to work out its early-season kinks before going on the road to face Minnesota Duluth Oct. 26-27.