Saturday, January 27, 2007

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota State-- Saturday Recap

After last night’s loss to Minnesota State, Wisconsin came into Saturday’s contest desperately needing a victory. Because the Badgers had labeled this as a “must-win” game, it may seem strange that head coach Mike Eaves decided to start sophomore goalie Shane Connelly over All-American Brian Elliott.

But this was Connelly’s third start of the season following a Badger loss on Friday night, and for the third time this season, Connelly led the Badgers to a victory; this time a 4-1 victory where Connelly made 17 saves.

“I just get excited,” said Connelly after the game. “Playing goaltender, you have enough pressure on you anyway. I get excited to know that the team is going to need someone to step up.”

Not only did Connelly step up for the Badgers, but the entire Badger team stepped up their play from Friday night’s loss.

“We went out there and played relentless from the start, said Jack Skille, who scored his first career hat trick for the Badgers.

The Badgers were rewarded for their relentless play at 11:01 of the first period. Seconds after a penalty to Minnesota State’s Jason Wiley had expired, Badger freshman Mike Davies collected a rebound from Ross Carlon behind the net and beat Maverick goalie Mike Zacharias to give the Badgers their first lead of the weekend.

“I think we have a little bit more jump in our step with the lead,” said Davies.

The Badgers out shot Minnesota State 17-2 in the first period, including 9 shots on four powerplay attempts, but could not extend their lead in the period.

The second period looked as though it would be scoreless, until the 18:21 mark of the second period when Jack Skille scored a controversial goal. Skille and MSU defenseman Chad Brownlee both raced after a puck in the Minnesota State zone, and Brownlee was the first one to reach the puck, but it look as though Skille tripped Brownlee, causing him to fall, which allowed Skille to gain possession and fire a backhand past Zacharias.

The strangest part of the play, however, was that despite the play happening on the puck, nobody on the ice seemed to see what happened.

“(Referee Marco Hunt) told me that he didn’t see the play,” said Maverick captain Travis Morin.

“I didn’t see what happened,” said Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting, who offered no further commentary on the subject.

“I didn’t see it. I was getting the next line up,” said Badger coach Mike Eaves.

Even Jack Skille, who didn’t have the benefit of pleading ignorance seemed unsure of what happened.

“He beat me to the puck, and somehow he fell. I’m not sure,” said Skille, while letting a small smile escape his face.

A similar bout of temporary blindness affected both coaches 42 seconds later when a fight broke out in front of the Minnesota State bench, which led to 3 players from each team being assessed 2 minute penalties and 10 minute misconducts. Wisconsin’s Blake Geoffrion also picked up an extra two minute penalty.

“I didn’t see it. I was trying to keep my guys on the bench,” said Coach Jutting, who once again wasn’t willing to say much on the topic.

“I saw Blake Geoffrion get smoked, and that’s all I saw,” said Eaves.

Badger forward Jake Dowell saw the altercation as a result of the intense atmosphere of the game.

“It was just an intense game. Everybody is scrapping for points. Everybody is going to stick up for their teammate. I’m surprised it didn’t get worse.”

Minnesota State closed Wisconsin’s lead to one goal when Joel Hanson fired a shot from the point on the powerplay that bounced off the post and into the net. But the Badgers answered back just 15 seconds later when Skille scored his second goal of the game.

“That was huge,” said Jutting.

Skille closed out the evening with an empty-net goal to give the Badgers the 4-1 win.

“It’s somewhat bittersweet in that we didn’t win last night,” said coach Eaves of the victory.

The Badgers will take on Colorado College next weekend in Colorado Springs, while the Mavericks will host Michigan Tech.