This was an entertaining and almost evenly matched game. It was pretty wide open and both teams played quite well. In the end however, it was the Wisconsin Badgers that would skate away with a win on their home turf.
The game began with some good flow and lots of intensity by both teams. Both teams got good scoring chances early. The Badgers would make the first mistake of the game that would lead to the opening goal of the contest. Wisconsin sophomore defenseman Jeff Likens makes a horrendous cross-ice pass attempt to his blueline partner, freshman Kyle Klubertanz (ANA). Likens didn’t bother to spot Pioneers senior forward Luke Fulghum in the passing lane. Fulghum intercepts Likens’ pass then proceeds to the slot area before snapping a shot off that beats Wisconsin senior goaltender Bernd Bruckler (PHI) just inside the near post for the score. The unassisted goal came at 7:38. The Badgers had begun to take charge of the flow of the game until the Fulghum goal shifted the momentum in Denver’s favor. At the 9:26 mark, Wisconsin junior Ryan MacMurchy (STL) would be called for a trip giving Denver the first power play of the game. The Badgers did an excellent job on their penalty kill, by pressuring the Pioneers’ puck carriers. Though the Badgers successfully killed off the Denver power play, it didn’t do much to slow down the Pioneers. The Pioneers began to attack relentlessly in the Wisconsin zone, but had nothing to show for their efforts. At the 13:53 mark, Badgers captain, senior Adam Burish (CHI) got Wisconsin on the board that was the result of an absolutely great individual effort by sophomore Robbie Earl (TOR) that was one for the highlight reels. The play begins with Earl skating into the Pioneers zone. As he gets to the left face-off circle, Denver sophomore defenseman Matt Carle (SJ) attempts to poke check the puck away from Earl. Earl slides the puck between Carle’s right leg and stick blade before dancing around him to retrieve puck possession to get a shot on goal. Denver sophomore goaltender Glenn Fisher (EDM) is there to make the pad save but ends up leaving a rebound. Meanwhile over around the far side post area of the net, Denver junior defenseman Brett Skinner (VAN) skates by Burish thus leaving Burish all alone at the side of the net where the rebound comes out to. He gets the first swipe at the puck that is saved by Fisher’s glove. Burish stays with the play to get a second swipe at it and get it past Fisher for the score. Earl and sophomore defenseman Matt Olinger would get the assists on Earl’s tally. The remainder of the period would see some good battles at both ends as well as some great end-to-end action by both teams.
The second period started 4-on-4 with Wisconsin sophomore Jake Dowell (CHI) and Denver freshman Geoff Paukovich (EDM) both in the penalty box after receiving calls late in the first period, although not at the same time. Just after Dowell’s penalty had expired, freshman Joe Pavelski (SJ) would give the Badgers their first lead of the game at the 35-second mark. The play begins with a horrendous neutral zone turnover by Denver junior defenseman Brett Skinner. He tried a lazy no-look, backhanded pass attempt to Carle, but instead had the pass intercepted by Pavelski. Pavelski then skates into the Denver zone with Earl in tow on the opposite wing toward the DU net. Pavelski does a nice job of using Earl to fake a pass attempt to get Fisher to commit. It worked and Pavelski then proceeded to snap a high shot just over Fisher’s glove from the slot area for the score. The power play goal was unassisted and made the score 2-1 Wisconsin. A little after the goal, a mini parade to the penalty box began. Denver freshman Geoff Paukovich earned his second trip to the sin bin at the one-minute mark for interference. Just 31 seconds later, Wisconsin junior Ryan MacMurchy would nullify the Badgers power play by being sent off for hooking. Just 17 seconds after that, Wisconsin sophomore Robbie Earl would be sent off for tripping, giving the Pioneers a five-on-three power play advantage. Early on, the Badgers did a very good job of shutting down the Denver power play, but eventually they would run out of steam before the penalties would expire. At the 3:26 mark, Denver’s red-hot senior forward Jon Foster, would get the equalizer and notch his seventh goal of the season. It began with senior speedster Jeff Drummond bringing the puck back into the Wisconsin zone. He then dishes the puck off to Skinner who then passes it over to Foster, who is parked at the left point. Foster then launches a one-timer that makes its way through traffic and beats Bruckler just inside the near post for the score. Skinner and Drummond would be credited with the assists. The score was now 2-2. As the period progressed, both teams were guilty of some turnovers that resulted in some excellent scoring chances off of odd-man rushes. At the 11:20 mark, Denver sophomore defenseman Ryan Helgason would be called for a hold, putting the Badgers back on the power play. At the 13:03 mark, sophomore Ross Carlson would put the Badgers back out front. The play began with a shot on goal by Carlson that goes wide. The puck ends up along the boards where it is retrieved then moved along by sophomore Andrew Joudrey (WSH). MacMurchy then gets possession from behind the Denver net. After getting possession, MacMurchy wheels around and sweeps the puck to an oncoming Carlson. Carlson does a nice job of having his stick on the ice as he’s moving toward the Pioneers’ crease area. Once he gets the feed, Carlson proceeds to snap the shot just over Fisher’s glove-side shoulder for the goal. MacMurchy and Joudrey would draw the assists on the first of Carlson’s two goals on the night. While the Badgers may have taken the lead, it didn’t take long for the Pioneers to respond. At the 14:56 mark, freshman Geoff Paukovich would get the equalizer on a terrific individual effort. The play begins with the puck pinballing around the neutral zone. Senior Jeff Drummond eventually gets possession and brings it into the Wisconsin zone. He then cuts into the high slot area before wristing a shot on the Wisconsin net. Bruckler makes the glove save but gives up a rebound. Paukovich, who was trailing Drummond on the play, does an excellent job of staying with the play. He spots the loose puck at the side of the net and uses his large frame and great upper body strength to fend off Wisconsin sophomore Matt Olinger to drive to the net and somehow manages to get off a high shot that beats Bruckler top shelf for the score. Drummond and sophomore J. D. Corbin (COL) would be credited with the assists on Paukovich’s goal. The latter part of the period, saw the Pioneers giving up way too many odd-man chances to Wisconsin as well lots of skating room. Fisher made several outstanding saves to keep the score tied, including a terrific two-on-one chance where he robs Adam Burish of an almost sure goal. Meanwhile, Wisconsin was getting lots of chances but weren’t getting many quality chances on goal. Furthermore, the Badgers tried to get too “cute” by going for the “perfect” play rather than giving Fisher more work.
The final stanza saw the Pioneers coming out with the early jump. The physical play would flare up but nothing would come of it. Neither team wanted to risk blowing the game on unnecessary penalties with the score tied. At the 2:50 mark, Carlson would put the Badgers up for good. The play began with a nice battle along the boards in the Denver zone. Diminutive Wisconsin junior forward Nick Licari would gain puck possession just outside the left face-off circle. He then dishes the puck off to freshman defenseman Davis Drewiske. Drewiske then proceeds to fire a shot at the Denver net from the left point. Just as Drewiske launches his low shot, Carlson would was left all alone in the left corner makes his way to the Denver net and gets there just in time to deflect Drewiske’s shot just inside the far post, beating Fisher for the goal. Licari and Drewicke would draw the assists. The goal seemed to have rejuvenate the Badgers as they began to not only open up the game but to relentlessly battle for the puck and in doing so were winning most of the battles. Badgers junior Tom Gilbert (EDM) made one of the best defensive plays of the night at around the five-minute mark. The Pioneers were on a two-on-one rush in the Wisconsin zone. With Denver sophomore Adrian Veideman with puck possession he had to decide whether to shoot or pass. Seeing that his partner had almost nothing to shoot at, Veideman decided to take the shot himself. Gilbert made a great heads up play to go down to block Veideman’s shot just as he was about to launch it, giving some great defensive help to his goaltender. At the 8:11 mark, Denver senior defenseman Nick Larson would be called for a hold, putting Wisconsin on the power play. However, it would be the Pioneers who would get the best shots on goal during it. The ultra-aggressive Pioneers penalty kill netted not one but two great shorthanded scoring opportunities. Unfortunately for the Pioneers neither would result in a goal. At the 10:40 mark, freshman Paul Stastny would be called for a hold and once again the Badgers would be back on the power play. This time, the outcome would be much different. At the 11:17 mark, freshman Joe Pavelski would notch his second goal of the night to extend the Badgers’ lead. It starts with Earl flying into the Denver zone. After a nice little dipsy-doodle move to get around Skinner, he brings the puck all the way around the Denver zone from left around to the right side before dishing off to freshman defenseman Kyle Klubertanz. The Badgers do a much better job of moving the puck around on this power play than they did on the previous one. Earl finally gets the puck back at the right point and proceeds to just fling it at the Denver net. Meanwhile, Pavelski and fellow freshman forward Matt Auffrey (ANA) is camped out on the doorstep of the Pioneers net. Fisher makes the initial save but gives up a rebound. Pavelski does an excellent job of positioning himself squarely in front of Fisher to retrieve the rebound before flipping it over the sprawling Pioneers goaltender for the score. Earl and Klubertanz would draw the assists on Pavelski’s goal. The score was now 5-3 Badgers. From there, the Pioneers looked like a team that had the wind come out of their sails. The Badgers would continue (though more often) win the puck battles and gained lots of skating room to create some good plays. The final goal came at the 18:44 mark. Again, it was the Robbie Earl-Joe Pavelski-Adam Burish line that would make it happen. It all began with a great attempt by Pavelski to split the Denver defense in the offensive zone. While he didn’t really succeeding in splitting the defense, he did manage to get the puck deep in the Pioneers zone. The puck ends up in the corner where Skinner gets momentary possession before losing it to Burish. Burish begins to skate out with it before dropping it back into the corner. There to battle for it is Pavelski and Denver senior defenseman and team captain Matt Laatsch. Pavelski wins the puck battle, gets possession before passing off to an incoming Robbie Earl. Earl gets the puck and in an unbelievable show of retaining puck possession, sweeps a backhander underneath an outstretched Fisher for the goal, all the while trying to fend off Denver senior Luke Fulghum. Pavelski and Burish would draw the assists and the game would end in a 6-3 win for the Badgers.
Wisconsin came into this game with a very effective power play and they continued it tonight. Three of their six goals came with the man advantage. What won the game for Wisconsin was their ability to open up the game, particularly in the third period and to be able to capitalize on the Pioneers’ mistakes and penalties. While Wisconsin did win the game, they struggled to get many (quality) shots on goal. Fisher saw 25 shots while Bruckler saw 31. The Badgers were also able to swing momentum their way and keep it there for long stretches, especially in the final period. Both goaltenders played very well but gave up quite a few rebounds. Fisher played an outstanding game for the most part despite being sacked with the loss. He made some key saves that helped the Pioneers stay in the game. Bruckler got alot of work and played quite well particularly in the latter stages of the first period and for much of the second period.
The story of the game however, was the sensational trio of Robbie Earl-Joe Pavelski-Adam Burish. The trio accounted for 4 of the Badgers’ 6 goals. Earl continues to be one of the most exciting players to watch in NCAA hockey. His blazing speed combined with his ability to move around opposing defensemen and great hands make him a great commodity for the Badgers. If he ever makes it to the NHL and can do for the Maple Leafs what he’s already done for Wisconsin, then the fans in Toronto will surely have something to look forward to seeing. Adam Burish, the elder statesman of the line continues to be a vastly underrated player who works hard, leads by example and basically does whatever it takes to get the job done for the team. He showed some great heads up play in getting a goal tonight. Joe Pavelski is a player that has to be seen to be believed, especially by San Jose Sharks fans. The Sharks prospect is a terrific player to watch. His unbelievably great hands alone are worth the price of admission. Pavelski is a very smart player who anticipates and reads plays quite well. Even more amazing is his ability to know where to shoot the puck. He shoots with remarkable accuracy and knows just where to position himself for the best possible shot, no matter what is going on around or in front of him. Another freshman that was also quite impressive was the play of Anaheim Mighty Ducks prospect, defenseman Kyle Klubertanz. Though not a really big defenseman, he’s got very good offensive abilities. He possesses a hard shot and will shoot often. You can find him joining the rush and he has the ability to make very good outlet passes as well.
The Pioneers may have a very good line in Jeff Drummond-Geoff Paukovich-J. D. Corbin. The trio had a hand in two of Denver’s goals tonight. Drummond especially was outstanding tonight. Getting several quality chances on net and creating some very good play for Denver, including Paukovich’s goal. Corbin drew only an assist tonight but was solid at both ends of the ice. Throwing his body around and wreaking havoc on the Badgers whenever opportunity presented itself, especially in the first half of the game. Paukovich has gotten better but could be more involved away from the puck. He used his large frame to his advantage tonight, but if he could somehow do it on a more consistent basis, he could be a great force to be reckoned with.
The two teams meet again tomorrow night in Madison.