Entering Saturday night's game Wisconsin was averaging six goals a game, dazzling with its offensive skill and making teams pay for allowing them power plays. After a 3-0 win against the Michigan Tech Huskies at the Kohl Center in Madison, stifling defensive play can now be added to the repertoire.
The No. 7 Badgers rode a strong effort by the blue-liners to sweep their Western Collegiate Hockey Association opening series with the winless Huskies and remain perfect on the year at 4-0-0 (2-0-0 WCHA). The play of the back line allowed the home team to dominate time of possession and put their opponents under a 46-shot barrage.
Wisconsin wasted no time in taking the lead, scoring two goals in the opening 10 minutes.
"It was a different scenario, the fact we were up 2-0," UW head coach Mike Eaves said, in reference to two of the Badgers' first three games, in which they trailed early. "We wanted to have a steely resolve to stay on course and I think the guys did a nice job with that. … They seem to be showing some real nice maturity for a young team."
Goaltender Brian Elliott amassed 13 saves en route to his second shutout in as many starts this season. This accomplishment is due mostly to what went on in front of the crease, though, as the Badgers allowed Michigan Tech (0-4-0, 0-4-0 WCHA) almost no room to threaten their young netminder.
The most conspicuous example of this came in the third period when, trailing 3-0, the Huskies were only able to manage one shot on goal — a misdirected pass from the other end of the ice.
"It shows that our defense is playing great and blocking a lot of shots," Elliott said. "I think it was a team shutout rather than my shutout, because we all played great tonight."
Likewise, the special teams unit made an impression in only allowing five shots in over 11 minutes of penalty killing.
"They gave us nothing on the inside. All we were able to do was pass it around the perimeter," Michigan Tech head coach Jamie Russell said. "I don't think we really tested Elliott tonight."
The Badger defense also shut down the Huskies' highly regarded scoring tandem of Colin Murphy and Chris Conner, allowing them only an assist each on the weekend, both of which came in the first 20 minutes of Friday night's match.
The hosts put the game away in the second period after stretching their lead to three, their third tally of the night coming courtesy of a Ryan MacMurchy wrister from the right faceoff circle.
The blue-liners received ample support between the pipes in the middle stanza from Elliott, who wowed the Kohl Center crowd with an impressive kick save late in the period that denied Michigan Tech their best scoring chance of the night.
The Wisconsin attack laid claim to the first period, registering four times as many shots as the Huskies and seizing the quick lead.
"The first period we got beat to every loose puck, we lost all the battles along the walls," Russell said. "Give Wisconsin credit, I thought they played very well."
Jeff Likens took advantage of a well set up one-timer from Matt Auffrey to score a power play goal and open up scoring at 6:40. Freshman Joe Pavelski tallied his second goal of the weekend less than three minutes later after being found on the open side of the net by teammate Robbie Earl, who skated his way past the Tech defense to make the pass.
The Badgers will receive their first big test next weekend at the Kohl Center when they host No. 13 Denver, the defending national champion.
Badger men complete sweep
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