Besse's late goal gives UW first season-opening sweep since 2004
MADISON, Wis. –After Friday's offensive fireworks, the Wisconsin men's hockey team (2-0-0) proved on Saturday that it was more than capable of grinding out a win in a 2-1 slugfest, as it topped Northern Michigan (0-2-0) at the Kohl Center to earn its first opening-series sweep since the 2004-05 season.
"I really like from the system standpoint, early in the game we did some really good things," said head coach Mike Eaves. "In the second period, we didn't get rewarded for what we were doing. The game got tight and we had to solve the riddle. In the third period, it was our will versus there's and we found the answer to the riddle."
Nic Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif.) made it two quick starts in a row for the Badgers, as he took a Joseph LaBate (Eagan, Minn.) pass, weaved through the Wildcat defense and beat NMU goaltender Michael Doan with a slapshot from just inside the blue line to give Wisconsin a 1-0 lead. The goal came just over eight minutes into the contest.
It would be one of the few offensive highlights for either team, as over 40 minutes would pass before the next goal, with the Wisconsin defense holding the Wildcats to just 12 shots on goal through two periods.
Those 40 minutes proved to be the calm before the storm, as Northern Michigan came out with increased pressure and intensity in the final frame, culminating with a Luke Eibler finish to tie the score at 1-1 with 10:40 left in the game.
The junior intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and beat Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan) from a few strides inside the blue line to knot things up.
But the score wouldn't remain tied for long, as the Badgers responded with Grant Besse's (Plymouth, Minn.) second goal in two nights.
With just 3:35 to go, Besse took a feed from Michael Mersch (Park Ridge, Ill.) and turned it into a 2-on-1 scoring opportunity for UW. He ripped a shot from the left side, but the puck got away from Doan, and the freshman gathered his own rebound.
He put the Badgers ahead for good with a backhand tap-in.
"(Besse's) confidence just got greater because of the result of the play," Eaves said. "But if you're looking and it's 1-1, you need to get a goal and he has that innate ability. Not only did he make the shot, but he followed the shot to net and got his rebound [with] his shin pads and [got it to] his blade, and he knows what to do with it.
"Good offensive players, it's interesting. If you watch enough hockey, they make bad passes, bad decisions, but somehow, someway the puck goes back to them. How do you explain that? It's the thing they have and you can't explain it. Grant has that and it was a goal-scorers goal."
It was a much cleaner contest than last night's matchup, as the teams only combined for five power plays, with Wisconsin going 0-3 and Northern Michigan going scoreless in two opportunities.
Rumpel was a major reason the score stayed low. The junior made his first start in the net this season and grabbed 20 saves, as his uncle, Roy Schultz--a 1980 All-American goaltender for the Badgers--watched from the stands.
Saturday's game marks the final October home contest for the Badgers, who won't play at the Kohl Center again until Nov. 1 and 2 against Lake Superior State. In the meantime, UW faces a pair of big tests in Boston, as they take on No. 4 Boston College on Friday at 6 p.m. CT and 19th-ranked Boston University on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT.
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