Not recently has a penalty box been put to such use as in Minnesota-Duluth’s 6-2 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers Saturday night. The Bulldog offense came out strong and never slowed down in a game marred by a shocking number of penalties.
The Badgers (8-13-3, 2-9-3 WCHA) suffered their biggest loss since the season opener in early October, letting up more goals in tonight’s game than in any other this season.
Minnesota-Duluth’s Jon Francisco and Ryan Geris led all players with two goals, while T.J. Caig contributed three assists. Caig led all players over the weekend with four points.
Tensions spilled over from the Badgers’ 2-1 overtime win the night before. This resulted in a bevy of heated engagements, including a fight in the third period between UW’s Erik Jensen and UMD’s Dan Kronick that saw both players disqualified. A total of 38 penalties were called during the game, adding up to 128 penalty minutes.
“Your always disappointed when you lose, but I’m disappointed that we lost our composure and unraveled a little bit,” Wisconsin Head Coach Mike Eaves said. “That’s not classy. We want to be something different then that, then what you saw out there tonight.”
The plethora of illegalities even caused confusion amongst referees, who were sometimes overwhelmed by the pushing and shoving after the whistles.
Several controversial calls saw the officials on the receiving end of merciless booing from the Madison crowd more than once during the game. The most noteworthy of these calls occurred on a play where a Bulldog defender held Wisconsin forward Brad Winchester face down on the ice. To the confusion of many, the referees assessed a holding penalty to Winchester.
“I’m not going to say anything negative about the referees, but we all saw what happened tonight,” Winchester said. “Its hard when you keep feeling like you have calls going against you.”
Despite the frequency of penalties, though, the two worst power play units in the WCHA produced little. Minnesota-Duluth (10-8-4, 6-5-3 WCHA) managed one goal on the man advantage, but also allowed Wisconsin a shorthanded score.
Aside from the fights, however, the Kohl Center was given little reason to celebrate. Minnesota-Duluth took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, courtesy of goals from Jon Francisco, the team leader in points, and Tim Stapleton. The lead extended to three goals before UW could get on the scoreboard.
A Bulldog goal at 14:58 of the third period from Ryan Geris, followed by a second goal from Francisco less than two minutes later, sealed the win for UMD. Each team would notch one more score before the final buzzer sounded.
Minnesota-Duluth freshman goalie Isaac Reichmuth proved that he warrants the increased notoriety that has been coming his way. Though average the night before, Reichmuth wowed players and fans alike in the rematch en route to 30 saves and only 2 goals against.
“[Reichmuth] played very well,” Eaves said. “He didn’t know where the puck was and he was making saves.”
Highly rated goaltender Scott Kabotoff of Wisconsin, on the other hand, succumbed to a furious Bulldog assault and finished the game with 21 saves and 6 goals against, for a meager save percentage of .715.
“They were good goals,” Eaves said in regards to Minnesota-Duluth’s successful night against the UW goalie. “They made it difficult: a couple hit bodies, they screened quite a bit. I thought [Kabotoff] looked OK; had we thought any different we would’ve made a change.”
Jon Francisco scored his first goal midway through the first period by rebounding a blocked shot from teammate T.J. Caig. At 3:39 of the period, freshman Tim Stapleton capitalized on an errant Badger pass and went on a breakaway. His quick wrister beat Kabotoff and put Minnesota-Duluth up 2-0.
A power play less than halfway into second period afforded the Bulldogs a chance to extend their lead by one. Marco Peluso redirected a Caig slapshot into the net with 13:08 left in the period to take a 3-0 lead.
Wisconsin’s hopes for a weekend sweep stayed alive with sophomore Alex Leavitt’s goal with 40 seconds left in the second period. After skating around the net, Winchester found Leavitt darting down the middle towards the goalie crease. Winchester sent a quick pass that Leavitt, in the process of falling, sent to the back of the net for Wisconsin’s first goal of the night.
Minnesota-Duluth did not let the Badgers stay in the game for long, however, and scored at 14:58 of the third. A textbook one-timer by Ryan Geris, with an assist from Nick Anderson, put the Badgers down 4-1.
“We knew we had a chance going into the third,” Winchester said. “I thought we had pretty good momentum, it just unraveled on us.”
Jon Francisco did not wait long before notching his second score. With 13:18 remaining Francisco battled between two defenders and managed a quick shot from the right side that deflected off the side of Kabotoff and into the net.
Ryan Geris would score his second goal, and Minnesota-Duluth’s last of the night, as a 5-on-3 power play ended. Before the Badgers could adjust to even strength, Geris snipered the puck towards a crowded goalie crease. The shot hit off of one of the players and redirected past Kabotoff.
Wisconsin notched it second goal shorthanded when John Funk beat Reichmuth on a breakaway. Though blocking the shot, the freshman goaltender lost track off the puck and was not able to stop it from bouncing across the goal line. The goal was too little, too late for the Badgers, however.
“The disappointing thing was the way we finished the game, our total lack of discipline,” Eaves said. “I didn’t like the referee at all, I think he was a factor in it. We were the major factor.”
Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth split both their weekend and season series. The Badgers will travel to Colorado for the next two weeks, starting play on Friday against No. 2 Colorado College. The Bulldogs will face No. 14 St. Cloud State away on Friday and home on Saturday.