The Badger Hockey Showdown looked more like the Badger Hockey Shootout on Saturday as two games saw 20 goals. Wisconsin set a new school record in its contest and will meet Ferris State Sunday in the championship game.
The Badgers dominated Saturday night's game against Union, out muscling the Dutchmen and cruising to an 8-1 victory. The win extended their unbeaten streak to 15 games, the longest in the nation and longest in school history.
"We started off a little slow, but the guys wanted to get to 15 and I hope that they don't want to stop now," Adam Burish said. "We want to keep going and prove something to the rest of the country. We want to be number one."
The Badgers did start off slow. They gave up the first goal of the game to the Dutchmen, but after that they took control, scoring the next eight goals.
Jason Visser put Union on the board eight minutes into the first period, finding a way to get the puck past goalie Brian Elliott. Elliott got the start in net in place of regular starter Bernd Bruckler, who was one of three players suspended this weekend due to violation of team rules.
Bruckler will sit out Sunday's game while Robbie Earl and Brent Gibson may get the opportunity to play. The absence of the three players along with freshmen Ryan Suter, Jake Dowell, and Jeff Likens, who are playing in the World Junior Championships left the team shorthanded but determined to win.
"We already had three guys that were going to be gone so we just looked at it as (the suspended players) being gone too," Dan Boeser said. "It didn't really affect our preparation."
The punishments were laid down by associate head coach Troy Ward who is coaching the team for the next few weeks as head coach Mike Eaves coaches the Junior team in Finland.
"When team situations or rules are not abided by, then it is our role to adhere to those," Ward said. "And it doesn't matter to the staff whether they are our best player or our worst player, we hold everyone accountable."
Alternate captain Rene Bourque responded just two and a half minutes after Visser's goal with his sixth tally of the season and A.J. Degenhardt notched the game-winning goal less than three minutes after that. Burish flung the puck towards the crease and Degenhardt was there with the one-timer.
Boeser, this month's team captain, would add one more before the team headed into the first intermission.
The senior defenseman Boeser came out ready to help out on offense again in the second period. He assisted on all three goals of the period, finishing with four points and a plus-5 on the evening.
Tom Gilbert got the first goal of the second period after Boeser found him with a great centering pass. More than 10 minutes went by before the next Badger goal.
With less than six minutes to go, Wisconsin's goal-scoring leader Ryan MacMurchy tallied his first of two, converting on the power play. His line converted again two minutes later when Andrew Joudrey found the back of the net, putting the Badgers up 6-1 heading into the third.
The rout was on as Degenhardt and MacMurchy each added their second goals of the night and the game finished with an 8-1 victory in favor of Wisconsin.
"I thought this was one of the better team efforts we had all year," Ward said. "A lot of guys contributed and I think that says a lot about our group."
Despite being without some of their best players, the Badgers controlled the play throughout the night. They were more physical and faster than the Dutchmen and in the end that was the difference.
"Certainly some of the things that came up alter your ability to keep the continuity that we've had," Ward said. "Anytime you miss key individuals your players have to be sharp and have to answer that."
Earlier in the evening, Ferris State defeated Massachusetts-Lowell 7-4 and will play Wisconsin tomorrow night for the championship.
Lowell seemed to play better, but it was the Bulldogs who took advantage of their opportunities. Ferris State jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, but the River Hawks clawed their way back to within one goal twice, once at 4-3 and again at 5-4.
Ferris State always seemed to have an answer and an empty-net goal sealed the deal and sent Lowell to the consolation game. The consolation game will start at 4:35 p.m. with Wisconsin playing in the championship at 7:35.