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MADISON, Wis. – The team posters given away at the gate listed Friday as Wisconsin’s eighth game of the season.
Whether he wanted to admit it or not, it meant a touch more to Badgers senior goalie Kyle Hayton, who called UW’s opponent – St. Lawrence – his home for the previous three seasons.
With some jittery moments early, including allowing a goal on the first shot he saw, Hayton’s teammates made sure to handle some of the burden.
Center Seamus Malone’s power-play goal in the second period was the eventual game-winner and forward Tarek Baker’s one-timer in the third was the insurance for No.5 Wisconsin in a 4-2 home victory over the Saints.
“There’s obviously a little-added emotion, I don’t think it could possibly not be,” Hayton said, who made 17 saves to improve to 5-2-0. “But in the end, it’s another game. I prepared just like any other game. I wanted to win this game just as bad as any other game.”
Wisconsin (6-2-0) is off to its best start since beginning its 2005-06 national championship season 6-1-1. It is a bit premature, but the Badgers have reached the NCAA Tournament in the 10 previous seasons the Big Ten program won at least five of its first seven games.
Hayton’s goaltending will have a lot to do with it, considering his .901 saves percentage and allowing fewer than 2.48 goals per game.
“He’s had a tremendous start here,” senior forward Ryan Wagner of Hayton, who officially joined UW on Sept. 1. “More freshman or incoming players get the entire summer with us, but he fit right in at the start of the season and it’s been great ever since.”
It’s the opposite for the visitors. St. Lawrence (0-7-0) is off to its worst start since 1973 and grinding through an opening stretch with seven of its first eight games against top-20 opponents (six in the top-10); tough sledding with four new defensemen and starting goalie.
Having Hayton certainly would have eased the burden. In his three seasons with the program, Hayton – the ECAC’s goalie of the year last season – became the program’s leader in career wins, appearances, saves, shutouts and goals-against average.
The 23-year-old senior utilized the NCAA graduate-transfer rule (waiving the one-year penalty for those who transfer if they’ve finished their degree) to improve his profile as an NHL free agent and chose Wisconsin to help fortify a program that missed the NCAA tournament by one game a year ago.
“I turned that page a while ago,” St. Lawrence coach Mark Morris said of losing Hayton. “It was unfortunate for our program. The decision was made, but we moved on.”
Wisconsin dominated on the stat sheet, outshooting St. Lawrence 84-40, including 40-19 on goal, but a pair of defensive breakdowns allowed Saints freshman Callum Custinato to wipe out a pair of leads with his first two collegiate goals.
Wagner’s slick crossover of defenseman Nolan Gluchowski led to a tally 58 seconds into the game for Wisconsin, but Custinato capitalized on a turnover to beat Hayton 55 seconds later.
The following period, after sophomore Trent Frederic deflected in his fifth goal of the season, Custinato was unmarked between the circles and rifled another shot past Hayton, a boost for a team coming in averaging 1.5 goals per game (54th of 54 teams that have played).
“Our top-end guys aren’t putting it in the net,” Morris said. “We’ll take them from anybody at this stage. We’ve had a real rough go of it generating any offense.”
The firepower couldn’t be sustained, however, as Wisconsin got one goal each from its top two lines and two more power-play goals, improving the program to 6-for-20 on the man advantage over the last four games.
“I thought we moved the puck really well on the power play,” said Wisconsin coach Tony Granato, whose club also killed off a pair of penalties. “I thought we played really well in the offensive zone. I thought we had a lot of loose pucks that we were close to jumping on and burying … I think we played a really solid game from start to finish.”
Big 10 Roundup
No. 15 Penn State 5, Michigan 4 OT
Playing catch up the entire night, sophomore forward Blake Gober finally put the Nittany Lions ahead for the first time only 53 seconds into overtime, as his first goal of the season lifted Penn State to a gritty victory in its conference home opener. Five different players scored for the Nittany Lions (4-3-0, 2-1-0 Big Ten) on a night when PSU fired 54 shots on net.
“Even if we lost I absolutely thought we played our best game and got back to our identity,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said, whose team was beaten in overtime last Friday by then-winless American International. “That was Penn State hockey.”
Michigan’s Cooper Marody scored his first goal of the season off a defensive turnover to take a 4-3 lead early in the third period, a lead that stood until Chase Berger’s goal at 18:28 forced overtime. It wasn’t the only lead the Nittany Lions had to wipe out, as the Wolverines (3-2-0, 0-1-0 Big Ten) jumped to a 2-0 lead in the game’s first six minutes.
Senior Dexter Dancs scored a pair of goals for Michigan in the first conference game of the Mel Pearson era.
No. 7 Minnesota 3, No. 9 Clarkson 1
Having yet to play a unranked team this season, the Gophers got goals from second-line forwards Scott Reedy and Brent Gates and 26 saves from goalie Eric Schierhorn to pull out the home win.
Playing their fifth different ranked team to begin the season, Minnesota (4-3-0) did its damage off rebounds allowed by Golden Knights goalie Jake Kielly (25 saves).
Reedy banged home a rebound to open the scoring at 14:32 in the second period. Rem Pitlick doubled the lead at 7:04 in the third period and Gates added the third with a one-timer from the right circle at 10:21 with guys screening in front of the net.
“That’s where goals are scored,” Gates said. “We’ve got a lot of skilled guys up front but at the end of the day you’re not going to score from outside the dots. You’re not going to score many from the blue line. You need to get in front.”
That was more than enough for Schierhorn, who gave up his only tally with just 1:18 remaining.
No. 8 Notre Dame 5, Nebraska Omaha 4
Freshman forward Colin Theisen scored two goals, senior defenseman Jordan Gross’ six points and senior forward Jake Evans’ three assists helped the Irish salvage a series split in their final tune-up before Notre Dame’s inaugural Big Ten conference game.
Down 2-1 at the first intermission, the Irish scored three of their four second-period goals in the first 4:36 of the period, including Theisen’s snipe from the right circle at 32 seconds. Sophomore goalie Cale Morris made seven of his 27 saves in the third period to preserve the lead.
Michigan State 4, Lake Superior State 3
Sophomore forward Patrick Khodorenko extended his goal-scoring streak to four games as the Spartans hung out to be the Lakers and improve to 3-0 at Munn Ice Arena.
Michigan State (5-2-2) led 4-0 on Logan Lambdin’s first goal of the season at 1:19 of the third period, but the Lakers scored three goals in the next 12 minutes on goalie John Lethemon (19 saves) to keep the pressure on the hosts.
With forwards Taro Hirose and Mitchell Lewandowski both assisting on Khodorenko’s second-period tally, the trio has accounted for 51.2 percent of the Spartans points this season.
Ohio State 5, Robert Morris 3
A three-goal second period sparked the Buckeyes, which dug out of an early 2-0 hole to upend Atlantic Hockey’s Colonials in Game 1 of a home-and-home nonconference series.
Down 2-0 midway through the first period, Ohio State (4-1-2) scored the next three goals, including two in the opening 2:31 of the second period to take a 3-2 lead. Goalie Sean Romero gave up three goals for only the second time this season, but the Maine transfer earned his fourth win of the season and first at home.