MADISON, Wis. — There was no shortage of swings in play in the second period of Wisconsin’s 3-3 tie with No. 9 Denver on Friday.
The Badgers overcame a 1-0 deficit with three goals in a 4:08 span, partially fueled by a heavy hit delivered by defenseman Patrick Sexton that got the bench fired up.
The Pioneers collected themselves and returned the favor, scoring twice in 99 seconds later in the second to even the score.
Despite losing the lead, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said his team left with good feelings after getting the last, albeit unofficial, swing of the night. The Badgers won an exhibition shootout on Grant Besse’s third-round goal, while goaltender Matt Jurusik stopped all three shots he faced.
“It feels like a win for us, and I think we have to look at it like that with this young group,” Eaves said. “Anything that gives us a puff of wind in our sails, we’re going to take advantage of.”
Trevor Moore scored a power-play goal and Green Bay, Wis., native Evan Janssen tied the game at 3-3 for Denver.
“The end result was fair,” Pioneers coach Jim Montgomery said. “Both teams had moments where they possessed the puck more than the other team. Both teams had odd-man rushes. … Both teams played very hard, it was physical. It was tough to earn your ice.”
Eaves and Badgers players pointed to Sexton’s hit on Denver forward Troy Terry nearly seven minutes into the second period as a key moment.
Wisconsin had just tied the game on Matthew Freytag’s first collegiate goal, and in the three minutes after Sexton’s check, the Badgers took a 3-1 lead on goals by Jedd Soleway and Luke Kunin.
“It was a great, clean hit,” Badgers co-captain Eddie Wittchow said. “Anything like that can really change momentum in the game, and I think we did.”
Soleway’s goal was the end of the night for Pioneers starting goaltender Evan Cowley (10 saves), who whiffed on the long wrist shot.
“It never changed height and it wasn’t a hard shot,” Montgomery said. “I think the guy was just putting it to the net for a rebound, and the rebound never happened.”
Kunin then scored on the Badgers’ first shot on Tanner Jaillet (19 saves), finding a narrow opening and hitting the water bottle from low in the left circle.
However, Denver had answers before the second period was done. Moore put away a feed by Dylan Gambrell, and Janssen muscled his way to the net and beat Jurusik (21 saves) between the pads.
“I’m not surprised — we have great leadership,” Montgomery said of his team’s response. “Our bench is usually very calm. Grant Arnold and Quentin Shore in particular spoke up when it went 3-1, like, we’re fine here and we’ve just got to go back to our game plan.”
All three Denver goals, including a first-period score by Quentin Shore, were on shots from close range, a sour development for the Badgers (3-4-4).
“It’s about not only being there but having your stick in the guy and having his coverage,” Eaves said. “We just played soft. We were there but we weren’t there.”
Denver (6-3-2) is 15-5-4 all-time at the Kohl Center and is 2-0-2 in a seven-game road stretch that continues at Wisconsin on Saturday and at North Dakota on Dec. 4-5.
The Badgers are 2-0-3 at the Kohl Center this season, with two wins over Arizona State and two ties against Northern Michigan.