With critics circling in on UW coach Tony Granato and the struggling Badgers, Wisconsin (4-8-0, 0-6-0 Big Ten) squeaked out consecutive wins over Long Island University (1-8-1 Independent) at home.
Wisconsin’s three scores held up in Friday’s contest despite the Sharks taking sizable bites out of their lead throughout the night.
The Badgers were gifted a golden opportunity just 20 seconds into the first period after LIU’s Spencer Cox was sent to the penalty box for boarding. Wisconsin’s Zach Urdahl ensured the one-man advantage didn’t go to waste, uncorking a shot from the top of the left circle that ricocheted off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net. The power play goal at 2:00 in the period was largely thanks to freshman Charlie Stramel, who provided an integral screen in front of Long Island goalie Vinnie Purpura.
Mathieu De St. Phalle doubled Wisconsin’s lead with 1:46 left in the first period. Sophomore Liam Malmquist fed De St. Phalle with a no-look pass from behind the goal, which the forward promptly buried home to put the Badgers up, 2-0. The flashy score marked the first time this season Wisconsin netted multiple goals in a home game.
The Sharks came barreling back in the second to make the match competitive. LIU’s Anthony Vincent kickstarted the comeback at 7:00 in the period, tapping in the rebound of Cox’s shot to bring Long Island within one.
Vincent evened the score at two apiece with another goal 7 and a half minutes later. LIU’s Zachary Nazzarett intercepted a bad breakout pass by UW’s Tyson Jugnauth and skated behind the net before dishing the puck to Adam Goodsir. Though the forward’s between-the-legs shot was unsuccessful, Vincent swiftly corralled the misfire and fired it into the net.
Both sides skated off the ice tied at 2-2 once the closing horn of the second period sounded. Penalties assessed to each team early in the third provided several scoring chances that were all squandered by strong goalie play.
With the contest seemingly heading to overtime, Wisconsin reclaimed the lead with 6:28 left in the period thanks to Cruz Lucius. Jugnauth led the 4-on-3 rush into the Sharks’ zone and threaded the puck to Lucius, who handled the feed on the wing and wristed it into the mostly empty net.
Lucius’ putaway goal was all the additional scoring Wisconsin needed to secure the 3-2 win – their first home victory of the season.
“It's a relief to win because there's a lot of pressure on everybody to feel like, hey, we've got to get on track here soon,” Granato said. “We were able to fight through it enough and battle through it.”
The Badgers built upon their newfound momentum Saturday night, narrowly escaping the jaws of death in a 4-3 come-from-behind victory.
Long Island secured their first lead of the weekend at 7:14 in the first period. Moments after UW’s Carson Bantle lost the puck on a forecheck, LIU capitalized on a 3-on-2 rush at the other end. Josh Zary finished off the scoring effort directly in front of the net, giving the Sharks a 1-0 advantage.
Goodsir added on to the Sharks’ lead later in the period following more sloppy play by the Badgers. Vincent ambushed Lucius in front of the UW bench and wrangled the puck out of a scrum before dishing it to Goodsir. The graduate student did the rest, burying a back-hand shot at 12:01 to cap off the breakaway.
Wisconsin ended the first period down 2-0 despite holding sizable advantages in both faceoffs (12-4) and shots (11-7). The second period bore far better results as the Badgers roared back to tie the contest.
UW’s Dominick Mersch secured a stretch pass in the offensive zone and fed teammate Sam Stange, who scored his first goal of the season with a wrist-shot from the left circle. The equalizing score came later with 5:06 left in the second, as freshman Jack Horbach flew past LIU’s Noah Kane and lifted the puck over Purpura on the short-handed breakaway.
It didn’t take long for the Sharks to reclaim the lead. Seconds after Wisconsin killed a power play, LIU’s Austin Brimmer redirected Gustav Müller’s shot past UW goalie Jared Moe at 16:31 to put Long Island up, 3-2.
The Badgers once again returned the favor at 2:30 in the third period. Following precise passes by Daniel Laatsch and Jack Gorniak, Stramel received the puck on the far side and found the back of the net to even the score, 3-3.
With the score still tied at the end of regulation, the Badgers headed to overtime with a lopsided 42-17 shot advantage. Urdahl sent the raucous crowd home happy at 3:47 in OT, wristing a shot in from the high slot and sending the 7,650 attendees into a state of pandemonium.
“It was huge to come back a couple times,” Urdahl said. “It's been something that we've struggled with, keeping our composure and keeping ourself engaged in the game once we get down. To know that we come back in a game is huge for us.”
Wisconsin will look to build on their series sweep when they host Lindenwood next week, with contests slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18 and Saturday, Nov. 19.