The No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers (0-0-0 Big Ten, 4-4-0 overall) dropped both games of their weekend set to the No. 14 North Dakota Fighting Hawks (0-0-0 NCHC, 4-2-1 overall). Friday’s contest ended in a 5-0 blowout in favor of the Fighting Hawks, and Saturday night’s contest ended just seconds into overtime as Jacob Bernard-Docker found the back of the net for North Dakota, giving it a 3-2 win.
Friday night’s game was over almost as soon as it started. Three minutes into the first period, UND senior forward Rhett Gardner took advantage of a 2-on-1 and scored. Head coach Tony Granato said to UWBadgers after the game, "They were better than us right from the start, they just played better.”
Late in the second period, North Dakota went up 4-0, and Junior goaltender Jack Berry was pulled to give Freshman Daniel Lebedeff some time on the ice. Lebedeff stopped seven of the eight shots he faced after he was inserted into the lineup, and the Badgers limped out of the game on the wrong end of a 0-5 contest. However, Coach Granato explained after the game that pulling Berry had nothing to do with his performance, saying to UWBadgers.com, “[we] wanted to get Daniel [Lebedeff] in there to get some action and get him ready for tomorrow."
On Saturday the Badgers came much more prepared, and slugged it out with the Fighting Hawks over the first 60 minutes. Wisconsin got goals from senior forward Will Johnson and sophomore forward Tarek Baker, but they weren’t enough to overcome the Badgers sloppy play. The Badgers racked up nine penalties, and the second-to-last proved to be the one that broke a strong Badger performance. Going into overtime, North Dakota started on a 5-on-3 power play for the first 21 seconds of the period, and Docker netted the winning goal 20 seconds in.
Coach Granato wasn’t upset with how his team performed Saturday however, saying to UWBadgers.com, “we battled, scratched, and clawed, and found a way to stay in the game, we wanted a response of effort and that’s what we got.”
There were plenty of bright spots in the loss Saturday, and Daniel Lebedeff shined brightest of all. Lebedeff started in goal for Wisconsin Saturday, and stopped an eye-popping 30 shots on goal by North Dakota, for a .914 save percentage and the most saves by a Badger goaltender this season. “He was outstanding, he’s been what we hoped he would be,” Granato said to UWBadgers.com after the game.
Wisconsin now looks toward a border battle series with rival Minnesota, beginning Friday and followed by a rematch Saturday.