The No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers extended their nation-leading unbeaten streak to 14 games with 4-1 and 3-2 victories over Minnesota State-Mankato Saturday evening.
"We came into tonight thinking we could get four points in three hours," freshman defender Ryan Suter said. "We went for it and we got it."
The two teams first finished their Friday night matchup, which was postponed for 21 hours due to a blackout. Facing a 6-4 deficit in manpower after the Mavericks pulled goaltender Jon Volp, Badger Adam Burish nonetheless managed to tally an empty netter with only 17 seconds left to play, icing a 4-1 win for Wisconsin.
In the second game of the weekend the Badgers (11-3-4, 6-2-4 WCHA) jumped out to a 2-0 lead and held off a Maverick rally in the third period to sweep the series.
"He made a nice pass under the defenseman's stick," Bourque said of Eichelberger's assist. "I pretty much had a wide open net, I just had to throw it at the net. Unbelievable pass by (Eichelberger)."
The goal came only 55 seconds after MSU-Mankato's Brock Becker put a shot past Badgers star netminder Bernd Brückler to cut the Badger lead to one.
The Mavericks (3-9-2, 2-7-1 WCHA) pulled their goalie and enjoyed a 5-on-4 advantage in the final minute. Minnesota State put up a fierce rally in the closing seconds and again drew within one with a goal from Jeff Backes at 19:26. The Mavericks played hard for the final half minute, but were unable to beat the Wisconsin defense with so little time.
"I thought we played hard tonight," MSU coach Troy Jutting said. "I'm proud of the kids for the effort they gave."
Facing a 2-0 deficit entering the third period, Minnesota State was desperate to break through the wall that was Brückler. His array of impressive saves and tenacity under fire not only kept the Badgers in the game, but almost took the Mavericks out of it.
"Without Bernd in the net backboning that (game), it could've gotten ugly," Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said.
The Mavericks and Badgers traded stretches of control for the second period, but it was Wisconsin that would use its time most effectively. In a span of two minutes and 16 seconds in the middle of the second, a pair of wristers from defenders Suter and Andy Wozniewski hit home and seized a 2-0 lead for the home team.
Suter, the hyped No. 7 overall pick in last summer's NHL Draft, notched his first goal in a Badger sweater on a power play at 11:14 of the period, while Eichelberger collected his first of what would be two key assists on the second goal.
For the game Minnesota State outshot Wisconsin 36-23, including a 14-4 margin in the first period.
This game will go down as one of the most penalized of Wisconsin's season. In all there were 21 penalties called in the game, including a game misconduct (boarding by MSU's Cole Bassett). Nine roughing penalties were called in the final 24 minutes.
Minnesota State will have its chance for revenge on Jan. 2-3, when Wisconsin visits Mankato. The Badgers will be going into that series without Eaves, Suter, Andrew Joudrey and Jeff Likens, who will miss the next four games to participate in the World Junior Championships in Finland.