All it took was one pass, one breakaway and two shots. The Wisconsin Badgers learned that the hard way as they fell to Minnesota State 3-2 Friday at the Kohl Center.
Wisconsin returned to the Kohl Center after sweeping the Badger Hockey Showcase Dec. 29 and 30 in full force — at least for the first period. However, two periods plus one overtime later, the Mavericks had handed the Badgers another defeat in the WCHA.
In overtime, freshman left wing Jeff Marler received a pass from senior defender Joe Bourne and never looked back, leaving his opponents and teammates in the dust as he skated across the ice. His shot on goal bounced back, however, and sophomore right wing Adam Gerlach picked it up and put it past senior goaltender Scott Kabotoff at 3:15 in overtime.
“[Marler] is a very fast, hard skater and he just went around the defensive end and put it to the net,” Gerlach said. “It was a huge overtime win. We needed two points tonight and hopefully we can come and do the same tomorrow night.”
Wisconsin fell to 1-8 in the WCHA and 7-12 overall while Mankato rose to 5-5-3 in conference play and 7-7-5 overall with its first road win of the season.
The Badgers held Minnesota State scoreless for most of the first period while notching two of their own goals. Midway through the period, junior left wing Rene Bourque fired the puck from the low slot past Maverick sophomore goaltender Jon Volp for Wisconsin’s first goal of the night. Junior center John Eichelberger came up big for the Badgers 10 minutes later, as his shot from the low circle bounced past Volp for Wisconsin’s final score of the night.
Down by two, the Mavericks made their contribution to the period, as junior left wing Shane Joseph sent the puck from the crease into the net with just 45 seconds left in the first. This goal, coupled with another last-minute goal in the second period from senior left wing B.J. Abel that tied the game, gave the Mavericks a momentum swing, which they used to propel themselves to the overtime win.
“Scoring goals at the end of the period is a huge bonus for the team,” Mankato head coach Troy Jutting said. “It’s kind of a downer going into the locker room after giving up a goal. I think those two were very important for us and it gave us momentum going into the next period.”
Both teams not only experienced a scoring drought for most of the second period, but a penalty shortage as well. Neither team received a penalty in the second period.
While the second period lacked penalties, the third period more than made up for it, as both Minnesota State and Wisconsin received 10-minute misconduct penalties. At 8:13 sophomore center Jake Brenk received a five-minute penalty for checking from behind after he slammed into sophomore center Alex Leavitt, as well as a 10-minute penalty for misconduct.
Wisconsin’s power play, one-of-four on the evening, lasted only eight seconds, as Bourque racked up a two-minute penalty for tripping. After exchanging words with the referee and throwing down his stick, Bourque also received a 10-minute misconduct. Bourque, Wisconsin’s leading scorer with nine goals this season, also leads the team with five power-play goals.
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves stressed the lessons Bourque learned on game behavior.
“He slammed the stick and lost it. He challenged the referee and that’s another lesson,” Eaves said. “[The referee] just gave [Brenk] a five-minute penalty and if you do anything remotely [deserving of] a penalty, he’s going to call it just to even it up. It’s a fact of life and it’s a lesson for [Bourque] and a lesson for the rest of the team.”
Despite Bourque’s penalty, the Badgers still had the man advantage for nearly three minutes. But the Badgers, who have failed to capitalize on the power play all season, could not get the puck past Volp. Wisconsin’s misfortune gave Mankato another boost in momentum and dropped the Badgers to 9-for-93 on the power play this season.
“I thought we did a good job tonight,” Jutting said. “I think that three-minute kill in the third period obviously was a turning point.”
“Any time you have a five-minute [penalty], it’s a huge advantage for the team,” senior right wing Brad Winchester said. “At the same time, I think you have to be on the careful side, too, of being aware that … any chance he gets might try to even things up in that situation.
“But even though that was the case, we still had a three-minute power play … to work something. I thought our power play got a lot of chances tonight and actually did a pretty good job and just couldn’t get one in.”
Wisconsin and Mankato remained locked in a stalemate that lasted the duration of the third period and sent the game into overtime, setting the stage for Gerlach and Marler’s heroics.