The Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey team defeated the Bemidji State Beavers in a hard-fought 4-3 overtime win Friday evening.
The Badgers are now on a three-game winning streak after winning their first two games of the season against Augustana University last weekend.
As in their first games against Augustana, the Badgers got off to an early start, this time courtesy of Joe Palodichuk, who scored from just beyond the blue line for his first NCAA goal less than three minutes into the game.
Mathieu De St. Phalle and David Silye — complimented last week by Badgers coach Mike Hastings for their playmaking abilities — proved their talents by combining for the assist on Palodichuk’s goal.
About halfway through the first period, Bemidji State’s Kirklan Irey tied it up with a shot past the blocker of Kyle McClellan who had no way of sliding across in time — the first goal he and the Badgers have given up this season.
The game remained tied until about halfway through the second period when Cruz Lucius, who had been kept off the scoresheet in two games by Augustana, got his first goal of the season off a rebounded shot from defenseman Mike Vorlicky. Lucius’ goal and Vorlicky’s assist put all three Badgers team captains on the scoresheet for the day.
Christian Fitzgerald was credited with the secondary assist, who may deserve a little more credit than that after winning the puck with some physicality behind the Bemidji net.
Shortly thereafter, Bemidji State’s Lleyton Roed scored on the power play to tie it back at 2-2. It was the first goal the Badgers gave up while short-handed this season.
Entering the third period tied, Bemidji State quickly scored again to take the lead, courtesy of a Jackson Jutting.
But Bemidji State failed to close out the game as Simon Tassy, who transferred to Wisconsin from Minnesota State alongside coach Hastings, scored on the power play for his first goal as a Badger, tying the game at 3-3. Ben Dexheimer found his first point of the season with the secondary assist while William Whitelaw continued to impress with his third assist in as many games.
After a called back Badger goal for goaltender interference, the game went unresolved after three periods and head into overtime.
With under a minute left in overtime, De St. Phalle passed it forward to Lucius, who beat a defender with his speed before putting a shot on net and scoring the rebound to secure a 4-3 win for the Badgers.
Badgers offense heating up, defense still questionable
The good news for Badger fans was the Tassy power play goal and the fact that Wisconsin peppered Bemidji State’s goaltender Mattias Sholl with 57 shots. Ideally, they’d like to convert on a few more of those opportunities, but any game where they put nearly 60 shots on net could really help kickstart a Badger offense that was mostly dormant last season.
The power play goal was the Badger’s first of the season and another spot where they’re looking to improve from last season, so seeing them convert on one of the five opportunities against Bemidji State is a good sign that something could get going with those power play lines.
On the other end of the ice, the Badgers’ defense was by no means bad and allowed just 16 shots on McClellan’s net. Likewise, the penalty kill was more than satisfactory, killing six of the seven Bemidji State power play opportunities.
What the Badgers need to figure out is how they allowed 3 goals on only 16 shots. However, it’s hard to say goaltender McClellan is to blame, and you could make the argument that one or two of those were mostly beyond what most netminders are expected to save.
Where Wisconsin really needs to tighten up is the defense giving up quality opportunities, similar to the issues they saw gainst Augustana in Madison. All three Bemidji State goals were allowed by opportunities where a Bemidji State player had come open on the other side of the slot. The Badgers were unable to stop either the pass through the slot or defend the player coming into the slot-side opposite of the puck.
That kind of offensive play is the bread and butter for many of the offensive powerhouses the Badgers are going to face in the weeks to come.
The Badgers will make a short trip to the University of North Dakota on Saturday following their win over Bemidji State The Badgers lost the game 0-2.
Ian Wilder is a current features writer and former state politics reporter for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.