"Yesterday (Eaves) pulled our group together and said ‘this is a chance for you guys to show us what you can do as our top line'," Burish said.
Burish tallied the go-ahead goal at 3:25 of the final period after converting on a one-timer from Licari. The goal provided Wisconsin with its first lead of the game and shifted momentum toward the home team.
Urged on by a sizeable, spirited fan base, Riga seized a 2-1 lead by the end of the first intermission largely off of errors from Wisconsin's freshman goaltender Brian Elliott. Veteran Grigorijs Pantelejevs scored the opening goal when his awkward, bouncing shot skipped through the rookie netminder's legs. After a tying goal from Degenhardt, Edgars Zaltkovskis' shot deflected off Elliott's glove and into the net, regaining the lead for the Latvians.
"It was definitely a less physical type of game, they're more up-tempo" Degenhardt said. "There wasn't much hitting out there tonight."
Riga controlled most of the second period and threatened to score on several occasions, outshooting the Badgers 12-4. Whatever deficiencies Elliott showed in the first, however, were erased in the second session.
"He gets full marks tonight," Eaves said. "He came in and apologized to his teammates (after the first period). He just needed to settle down … and play, and he did that. That shows a good sign of maturity."
His strong defensive effort continually thwarted Riga and paved the way for a goal from Licari at 16:04 in the second period. Licari received a textbook centering pass from Burish and beat Latvian goalie Edgars Masalskis to make it 2-2.
"We wanted to show coach, and show the other guys on the team, that we can be looked at to score goals and that we can be looked at to make big plays at big times," Burish said.
Licari and Masalskis (23 saves, three goals against) were named stars of the game.
Eaves now holds a 2-0 record versus international teams and is the only Badger coach who has won an exhibition against a European foe. Before his arrival behind the bench, UW was 0-20-2 in such games.
Score by period
Shots on goal by period
LN1: Grigorijs Pantelejevs from Oleksandr Panchenko and Ronalds Ozolinsh at 4:32
UW1: A.J. Degenhardt from Joey McElroy and Jeff Likens at 12:52
LN2: Edgars Zaltovskis unassisted at 17:00
UW2: Nick Licari from Adam Burish and Likens at 16:04
UW3: Burish from Licari and Degenhardt at 3:25
LN: Edgars Masalskis(59:14), 23 (3 GA)
UW: Brian Elliott (60:00), 29 (2GA)