Minnesota Duluth hoped the start of the longest home stand of the season would aid a climb in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.
While the Bulldogs got off to a decent start Friday with a tie against Wisconsin, things didn’t improve Saturday.
Fourth-place Wisconsin scored less than three minutes into the game and went on to beat eighth-place UMD 4-1 before a crowd of 4,791 at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center.
It was UMD’s first home loss of the season and left the Bulldogs 0-3-1 the last four games. The Bulldogs (4-4-3 and 1-4-2 WCHA) continue their streak of five straight home games this Friday and Saturday against North Dakota.
Wisconsin (4-6-2 and 4-4-2) continues to rebound after a 0-6-1 start. The Badgers, 4-0-1 the last five games, led 1-0 after one period and 3-0 after two.
“I didn’t like one thing about the game,” said senior defenseman Josh Meyers, who had UMD’s goal. “It was disappointing to come out the way we did for two periods on a Saturday night at home. It’s the responsibility of the seniors to get our guys ready and we weren’t ready.
“Once we did score, we did some things better, but there was only half the third period left. That’s how we should’ve played after [the Badgers] scored their first goal.”
UMD was outshot for only the second time this season, 39-29, as Wisconsin senior Shane Connelly made 28 saves. Senior winger Tom Gorowsky of Lino Lakes, Minn., and sophomore Podge Turnbull each had a goal and an assist for the Badgers.
Wisconsin got off to a good start when freshman winger Chris Hickey tipped Eric Springer’s right point drive at 2:44 of the first period. It was Hickey’s first collegiate point in his third game, and neither he nor Springer, also a freshman, played Friday.
“We’re playing better every game, at least we’re trying to,” said Gorowsky. “We still thought we could’ve played better [in the series]. We weren’t at our best, but we’ve got some momentum.”
UMD suffered a loss with 63 seconds left in the first period when freshman winger Mike Connolly was called for a five-minute checking-from-behind major on Wisconsin defenseman Jamie McBain. Connolly was gone for the game.
The Badgers took advantage of the lengthy power play with a goal at 47 seconds of the second period. Gorowsky connected for a 2-0 lead. UMD was blanked on its first seven power plays until Meyers broke that streak.
After a brief five-on-three UMD power play in the second period, Wisconsin’s Brendan Smith blocked a shot in the defensive zone and Blake Geoffrion passed the puck ahead. Turnbull, just out of the penalty box, took control of a loose puck at neutral ice and came in to beat goalie Alex Stalock on a shorthanded shift with 5:37 left in the second period.
“[Wisconsin] played hard,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin.. “They were the better team all night long. Give them credit, they got what they deserved and we got what we deserved.”
Meyers had the first goal of the third period, from the right circle at 8:01, for his fourth of the season. Stalock was pulled for an extra attacker with 2:11 to play and Bohmbach hit an empty net with 21 seconds left.
“With the [early] schedule we’ve had and the teams we’ve played, we would hope to see some improvement, and we’re seeing it,” said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, whose team has faced Boston College, New Hampshire, Denver and Minnesota.
Kevin Pates covers Minnesota-Duluth for the Duluth News-Tribune in Duluth, Minn.