Starting to Slip Away

Instead of getting back on track and make a strong push to clinch home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, No.12 Wisconsin takes another step back Friday, dropping a 4-2 decision to lowly St. Cloud State Friday.

ST. CLOUD, Minn. – It was hard to pick out exactly what went wrong for Wisconsin Friday night. Maybe it was the bad bounces; maybe it was all the times Badgers collided into each other; maybe it was the defensive miscues and discombobulated offense.

It was actually easy to pick out what went wrong: Everything.

In a building where Friday night games have been unkind to them, the Badgers suffered a 4-2 loss to the St. Cloud State Huskies in a game that could have been much worse. By the time UW decided to take an active part in the game, it was almost out of reach.

The loss marked the fourth consecutive Friday night game the Badgers have lost at the National Hockey Center and extended UW's winless streak to five games. Wisconsin fell to 19-12-4, 11-11-3 in the WCHA.

The Huskies had been struggling, but inched closer to the .500 mark with a 13-15-5, 9-12-3 record following the home win – a rarity this season for SCSU.

The Badgers made it 3-1 after a Justin Schultz goal 39 seconds into the third period, but minutes later, Derek Lee ran into Husky goaltender Mike Lee from behind and was called for goaltender interference. On the delayed call, Nick Jensen launched a pass up to a streaking Garrett Roe, who scored to make it 4-1 and squash any building momentum for the Badgers.

Lee appeared to have been pushed from behind, but nevertheless, was called for the penalty.

"It's the ref's call. From his vantage point, I'm sure he saw a penalty, that's why he called it," Lee said.

The Wisconsin offense for the first two periods of the game consisted of shots from outside and little continuous possession. Fittingly, Schultz's goal was an individual effort, where he skated through the Huskies and beat Lee five-hole.

The Badgers' struggles were evident enough that after a week of mixing up lines and pairs in practice, head coach Mike Eaves made midgame changes by the second period. Eaves worked defensemen Craig Johnson and Eric Springer out of the rotation, opting to stick mainly with Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz, and moving John Ramage with Frankie Simonelli.

"It's been a while, but usually where you get yourself in situations where your team is in a funk and not performing the way it needs to, it's a good time to mix it up and try to get something going, try to stimulate something," Eaves said.

The mixing continued when Ramage was pushed after a stoppage in play and Simonelli came to his defense. The two Badgers, as well as SCSU's David Eddy and Ben Hanowski were all called for roughing minors, with Hanowski taking an extra two minutes for slashing.

At one point, half of the UW defensive corps was in the penalty box.

Wisconsin got a tip-in goal from Murray to make it 4-2, but couldn't draw any closer, despite a spirited effort in the final period.

In the end, St. Cloud State's execution in the second period was too much for Wisconsin to overcome.

Roe's goal on a two-on-one to make it 3-0 at 11:42 of the second period put SCSU in control, as the Huskies' Jordy Christian scored just 1:16 earlier, on a scrum in front of the net.

"We've kind of been a team where, we score a goal – sometimes it takes us a while – we settle in," Husky coach Bob Motzko said.

Wisconsin goaltender Brett Bennett struggled with finding rebounds most of the night, but did manage to make an athletic save, diving to his right from outside the crease and making a mid-air stick save on what looked like an open net.

But the UW senior wasn't happy with his overall performance.

"A lot of those pucks were just lost, I don't know where they went," he said. "I've got to do a better job finding pucks and covering them."

By the end of the second period, St. Cloud State already had three goals and had gone on the power play four times. UW hit posts, had passes intercepted, fanned on shots and seemingly couldn't find a place to shoot from that wasn't the wing.

So did anything go right for UW?

"You could just tell right from the start, we weren't clicking," forward Jordy Murray said.

"I think it just comes down to execution," Derek Lee said. "They made a few more plays than we did. I don't know how to explain it other than that, just one word, simple, is execution. We've got to win more battles, win more puck races."

For Murray, boiling all the things that went wrong for Wisconsin was simple.

"I would say they were making passes, we weren't," he said. "They were making simple plays and sometimes we try to do too much, turn the puck over; then they capitalized."

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