GAME NOTES (12/12): Wisconsin vs. Minnesota State-Mankato
WISCONSIN vs. MINNESOTA STATE-MANKATO:
The Wisconsin Badgers hosted the struggling Mavericks of MSU-Mankato in a WCHA matchup that ended up being suspended due to a power outage at the Kohl Center on Friday night. The game ended with just over 5 minutes left in regulation, prior to the outage. According to the Mavericks website, the game was suspended and will resume play prior to the 2nd game of this weekend’s matchup on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, here’s what happened when the game was on.
The Badgers came into this game as the hottest team in the nation, riding a 12 game unbeaten streak (8-0-4). However, the Badgers would be slow out of the gate tonight. The first obvious presence missing for Wisconsin tonight was the absence of senior sniper Rene Bourque, who was out with the flu. Since Bourque is such an integral part of the Badgers offensive attack, head coach Mike Eaves had to do some line juggling. Regardless, for much of the night until the game was called, the Badgers didn’t miss a beat for much of the game.
With the Badgers slow start, the Mavericks saw their opportunity to strike, and strike they did. At the 1:15 mark, the Mavericks opened the scoring thanks to a great effort by the line of senior Shane Joseph, junior Jake Brenk (EDM) and freshman David Backes (STL). The play began with a nice offensive take-in by Joseph who had to fight Badgers defenseman Jeff Likens every step of the way. Joseph momentarily losses possession to linemate Brenk, who then gets his pocket picked by Likens. Joseph then picks off Likens as he attempts to make a rather weak clearing attempt. Despite losing it however, Likens stayed with his man coverage. However, Joseph bested Likens on the play thanks to some excellent back-checking work when Likens had puck possession. Once Joseph gained the puck from Likens, he spins around to get off a low slapper that gets by Badgers netminder junior Brend Bruckler, beating him just inside the left post. The shot appeared to have caught Bruckler a little guard. One play that helped make the play leading up to the goal happen was some nice defensive coverage by David Backes to take his man out of the ensuing play. Jake Brenk would draw the lone assist on the goal. As the period progressed, so did the Badgers play. The Badgers began to get more physical and were skating alot harder. At the 10:34 mark, that hard work would pay off. The play starts off with a perfect faceoff win by freshman Jake Dowell, who gets the puck back to fellow freshman Ryan Suter (NSH) who’s parked at the blueline. Suter fires a low slapper at the net. Just as he releases the shot, freshman Mark Heatley is there, trying to fend off a Mavericks defender and does so enough to get his stick down to tip in Suter’s shot that finds its way thru the five-hole on Mavericks goaltender junior Jon Volp, to tie the score. Suter and Dowell would be credited with the assists on Heatley’s goal. As the game progressed even further, the Badgers could be seen not only being more physical but winning the territorial battles and starting to get under the skin of the Mavericks. Another area that became evident in the game was how active the Badgers blueliners, particularly Suter and later on sophomore Tom Gilbert (COL), became in creating and being a part of the offensive plays.
The 2nd period saw a much more energised Badgers team and it was quite evident. The Badgers were relentless in its pressuring of the Mavericks in their own zone, which lead to numerous Badger scoring chances and saw some defensive breakdowns for MSU. At the 7:53 mark (with Mavericks defenseman Chad Brownlee [VAN] off for holding) it looked as though Mark Heatley would score a “gimme” on the power play. The sequence began on a bad turnover behind the Mavericks net that would be recovered by Heatley along the sideboards. Heatley then spots a wide-open Ryan MacMurchy (STL) in between the faceoff circles and passes over to him. MacMurchy then fires a rocket that Volp appeared to have saved, nestling it between his pads. However, the puck would slowly trickle out behind him. With Volp out of position and on his belly, the puck was on its way in. Heatley, who tried as hard as he could to get there in time to sweep it in for the score, just missed getting there before Volp was able to stretch out his stick to stop the puck from going on. Heatley, feeling pretty dejected (and likely kicking himself for not being able to put in) would be able to redeem himself soon thereafter. The ensuing play would see Suter gain possession at the Mavericks blueline and firing in a weak shot that goes wide. There to retrieve the shot was Heatley. He returns the puck to Suter who then spots his fellow blueliner Jeff Likens in position to take a shot. Suter does a nice job of setting up the play for Likens, who fires a low one-timer that finds its way past Volp just inside the far post for the score. Suter and Heatley would be credited with the assists on Likens’ power play goal at the 8:07 mark. The Badgers relentless attack continued, however now they were bring the bodies to the net creating havoc for MSU netminder Jon Volp and pandemonium for the Mavericks defenders. At the 10:27 mark, that relentlessness would pay for the Badgers. It begins with an odd-man rush into the Mavericks zone. Badgers sophomore defenceman Tom Gilbert (COL) would take the initial shot at the net. As the shot is fired from the Mvaericks blueline, Badgers freshman Robbie Earl is busy crashing the net, taking with him a Mavericks defender. Earl attempts to poke in the arriving bouncing puck, only to have it bounce off the far post and stay out. In the chaos that developed as a result, Volp tried desperately to keep it out and at the same time try to find a way to get Earl out of his crease. As the puck rebounds off the far post, MacMurchy makes a nice heads up play to skate by and tip it in for the goal. The tipped in puck somehow finds it way under both Volp and Earl and goes in just inside the far right post. Earl and Gilbert would be credited with the assists on MacMurchy’s goal. The Badgers continued to win the territorial battles and managed to keep the Mavericks in check. When the Mavericks did get their opponents to put the puck in the net, Bruckler was there to shut the door.
The third period opened with matching minors to Wisconsin’s Mark Heatley and MSU’s defenseman junior Steven Johns for roughing near the end of the 2nd period. The third period was a penalty-filled period as the parade to the penalty box began early and often. Much of this was attributed to the fact that the Mavericks had picked up their physical play and began playing much better and more aggressively. MSU began creating chances for themselves, including gaining a 5-on-3 advantage. However the Badgers stood their ground and were excellent in their penalty killing for pretty much the entire night. As the game’s intensity picked up, the unthinkable happned. With 5:08 left in regulation, the game came to a screetching halt thanks to a power outage. The game was then suspended for the night, with the Badgers leading the Mavericks 3-1.
There were many players, particularly for the Badgers who were excellent. The players who were most impressive for the Mavericks were senior Shane Joseph and freshman Chad Brownlee. Joseph was stellar in his playmaking, particularly in the opening stanza for much of the night. However, at times it was clear that he was missing his terrific linemate from last season, Grant Stevenson. Stevenson, left MSU to sign with the San Jose Sharks during the summer. Vancouver Canucks fans would have appreciated Brownlee’s performance tonight. While he didn’t score, he made life miserable for the Badgers forwards who had the unenviable task of being matched up against him. Brownlee is a feisty, hard-hitting defenceman, who could use a little tempering on his aggressive play. He was excellent on one-on-one situations, particularly along the boards tonight.
The Badgers had many standout players that included Jeff Likens, Robbie Earl, Ryan MacMurchy and Ryan Suter. However, the Badgers player that stood out most tonight was the exceptional playmaking of Mark Heatley. Big brother Dany would’ve been mighty proud of his little brother tonight. Heatley was just everywhere. If he wasn’t there to score the goal or set it up, he was there to create the havoc to help make a play happen. Heatley showed a willingness to be physical and seemed to have his head on a swivel for much of the night. He showed some prowess in not only playmaking but also in reading plays and seeing the ice. Hopefully as the season progresses Heatley will continue to blossom, because he’s becoming another Heatley whose fun to watch.