Though only four games into the season, the pressure was mounting this weekend for the Wisconsin Badgers (2-4-0, 0-2-0) to put together a complete game and secure their elusive first win. They accomplished this and more in a much-needed series sweep of No. 10 Minnesota Duluth (2-4-0, 0-0-0 NCHC) at Amsoil Arena.
Despite trailing early on in Friday’s contest, the Badgers came barreling back to silence the away crowd of 6,573 and hand the Bulldogs their first home loss of the season, 5-2.
Wisconsin found themselves in penalty trouble early on in the game, as freshman Cruz Lucius was assessed a tripping minor with 9:49 left in the first period. Minnesota Duluth wasted little time before capitalizing on the one man advantage, burying a power play goal a little over a minute later. UMD’s Luke Loheit got the scoring kickstarted, netting a back-hand shot from the edge of the crease to put the Bulldogs up 1-0.
The Badgers evened the contest moments later thanks to freshman Charlie Stramel’s first collegiate goal. Forward Mathieu De St. Phalle led the offensive zone rush and wristed the puck to Lucius, who corralled the pass behind the net. The forward then centered the puck to Stramel, who redirected the pass into the goal at 14:06 in the first.
Wisconsin took their first lead of the night as the first period drew to a close. After receiving the puck from defensemen Corson Ceulemans, Lucius skated into the slot, where he unleashed a back-handed shot with 2:56 left in the period. The goal, which gave the Badgers a 2-1 lead heading into the second, made Lucius the first UW player with two scores on the season.
Minnesota Duluth tied the game at two apiece with their second power-play goal of the game. UMD’s Blake Bondi tip-in shot 23 seconds into the second highlighted UW’s struggles on the penalty kill, marking the second time this season the Badgers have allowed multiple power play scores in a night.
Forward Jack Gorniak helped Wisconsin reclaim the lead at 15:02 in the period, showcasing his blazing speed on the masterful scoring effort. With both sides down a man after a pair of off-setting penalties, Gorniak sped up the left wing and navigated past a defender before slipping the puck through the five-hole of UMD goalie Zach Stejskal.
The Badgers added on to their 3-2 advantage several minutes into the third period. After UMD’s Wyatt Kaiser was called for high sticking – a penalty that would soon after become a five-minute major following Wisconsin’s successful coaches’ challenge – UW junior Ty Smilanic secured a cross-ice feed from freshman teammate Ben Dexheimer. The transfer forward did the rest, netting the tap in goal at 5:14 in the period to extend Wisconsin’s 4-2 lead and record his first goal as a Badger.
The final blow came off the stick of UW senior Owen Lindmark, who buried an empty-net goal in the final two minutes of the game to propel the Badgers to the 5-2 victory – their first of the young season.
“It's good to get that first one,” Gorniak said following the win and his strong three-point performance. “We've really built since our first game this year and you could see it last Saturday. That's the first full 60 [minutes] we've played and we brought it into this game tonight.”
Looking to build on their statement win from the night prior, the Badgers came firing right out of the gate on Saturday night.
Forward Brock Caufield netted the first goal of the night at 3:57 in the opening period to give the Badgers an early 1-0 lead. Following a barrage of shots by Wisconsin, De St. Phalle fed defenseman Mike Vorlikcy in the slot. Though the senior’s shot harmlessly angled out to the low left circle, the puck was swiftly rebounded by Caufield and fired past UMD’s outstretched goalie for the score.
Wisconsin skated off the ice in good spirits after retaining their one-goal lead through the first period, but were soon confronted with trouble a minute into the second.
Vorlicky dropped to the ice in noticeable pain moments after being run over behind the net by UMD’s Quinn Olson. Following a brief discussion with Wisconsin athletic trainer Andy Hrodey, the defensemen was helped to the locker room, where he spent the rest of the night. Referees assessed the hit afterwards and deemed it wasn’t worthy of a penalty.
Vorlicky’s departure did little to slow down the Badgers, who built onto their lead at 3:08 in the second period. With seven seconds elapsing in a power play, Lucius received a pass from Ceulemans along the offensive zone boards. The freshman brought the puck up to the top of the right circle, where he uncorked a wrist-shot that ricocheted into the back of the net and extended the score, 2-0.
The Bulldogs had little answer for the Badgers and goalie Jared Moe, who saved 12 shots in the third period en route to saving 35 overall in the game.
“There were key moments in that game for sure that he had to make big saves and he was there for us,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said of Moe.
In one last move of desperation, UMD pulled goalie Matthew Thiessen with two minutes remaining in the contest. The decision quickly backfired, as Gorniak capitalized on the empty net with his second goal of the series to cap off the dominant win, 3-0. The shutout was the second of Moe’s career and first since Oct. 15, 2021.
Following the series sweep and crucial tallies in the win column, Wisconsin will hope to build upon their newfound success at home against Penn State, with games scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Oct. 29.