MADISON, Wis.—Junior goaltender Bernd Bruckler and sophomore forward A.J. Degenhardt turned in strong performances for the Badgers as they blanked Alaska-Anchorage 4-0 in the second game of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association first-round playoff series Saturday night at the Kohl Center. The win evened the series at one win apiece.
"I think it was a real good response by our team tonight," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. "I think we and we dictated in the first period, we took advantage of our scoring chances in the second, and we wanted to play with a winning mentality in the third."
Degenhardt's solid play led to two goals for the Badgers while Bruckler had 16 saves in his third shutout of the year and the fourth of his career. It was only the fourth WCHA playoff shutout ever for Wisconsin, with the last one coming in 2000 against Michigan Tech.
Much like the previous night, when the Badgers outshot Anchorage 47-24, UW provided much more offensive firepower than the opposing Seawolves, outshooting them 45-16 in Saturday's second game. However, timely goals for Wisconsin and a much stronger penalty kill than the previous night provided for a much different result.
"(The penalty kill) was a point of emphasis and it was just a matter of us executing it and we did a better job," Eaves said.
Wisconsin's offense came out with a flurry Saturday, forcing Alaska-Anchorage netminder Kevin Reiter to make 21 saves in the first 20 minutes alone.
Reiter could not stop every puck and the Badgers jumped out to an early lead exactly two minutes into the game when senior forward Rene Bourque stole a Seawolf pass in the Badgers' offensive zone. Bourque turned around and fired the puck past Reiter's glove side for a quick one-goal lead. Despite the Badgers heavy offensive attack, though, the score stayed 1-0 through the end of the first period.
"We needed to respond from last night's game. To get a goal early and get the crowd into the game helped our team a lot," Bourque said.
Wisconsin busted the game wide open in the second frame. After killing off the final minute of freshman forward Jake Dowell's goaltender interference penalty to start the period, UW found the back of the net once again just 2:39 into the second period. Freshman forward Robbie Earl took a shot from the right side that was initially saved by Reiter, but Degenhardt found the rebound on the opposite side of the goalie and dumped the puck into the open net.
Just more than a minute later, the Badgers struck again when Bourque sent a pass from the point to sophomore forward Ryan MacMurchy. With Reiter backed into his own net, MacMurchy took a turnaround slapshot that slipped under the goalie's pads.
UW would add even more insurance in the same period off of a Degenhardt breakaway goal that found its way through Reiter's five-hole to give the Badgers a four-goal lead.
"(Degenhardt) had good energy tonight," Eaves said. "As a winger, some nights you feel like your always the guy going to the corner and getting the puck and tonight he was the guy getting the puck in scoring areas. That's just the life of a winger."
The third period brought some roughhousing from both teams, but Alaska-Anchorage was unable to gain any ground on the dominating Badger squad and Wisconsin finished with a 4-0 win to force the series to a third, and deciding, game.
"I'd say we (have the upper hand)," Degenhardt said. "Being in our home building and coming off the 4-0 win tonight and taking the momentum from the win. Tomorrow night's game will be huge for us."
Wisconsin is set to face off against Alaska-Anchorage in the final game of the series Sunday night at 7:05 p.m. The winner will advance to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn. next weekend.