Again it was stellar third period play on both sides of the ice that separated the No. 5 Badgers from their opponents. Wisconsin (5-0-0, 3-0-0 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) managed three goals in the final 20 and took the advantage in shots for the first time all game. The Badgers also kept up their season long streak of not allowing scores in the third stanza by stymieing the No. 10 Pioneers (3-3-0, 2-1-0 WCHA) and their potent offense.
"They played great in the third period," Denver assistant coach Steve Miller said. "They clamped down … Give them credit, they played great defense against us."
Freshman center Joe Pavelski and sophomore wing Ross Carlson led the Badgers with two goals apiece. Pavelski also collected an assist, giving him three points on the night along with Robbie Earl (one goal, two assists).
In a game between two WCHA heavyweights, one of the few noticeable differences came on special teams. Wisconsin's already strong offense was augmented by its power play unit, which converted on 3 of 7 opportunities, while the penalty kill unit, conversely, shut down the Pioneers on all but one chance.
"We have to get better on the power play," Miller said. "We've got a lot of talent, we've got a lot of speed and we've got some very creative players."
Carlson scored the game-winner at 2:50 of the final session after deflecting rookie defender Davis Drewiskie's shot above Denver goalie Glenn Fisher's shoulder. Pavelski then scored his fifth of the season in commanding fashion, putting in the insurance goal on a power play midway into the period by collecting a rebound in front of goal and flipping it into the net.
Earl put the finishing touches on the win at 18:44.
The second period saw the Badgers jump out to a lead on two occasions. For whatever the hosts managed to do, though, Denver did not let them stay in front for long.
"The most interesting thing about this game was in the second period it was kinda like fire wagon hockey," UW head coach Mike Eaves said. "It was up and down, 2-on-1s and that's youth at its finest."
The Badgers made it 3-2 after Ross Carlson converted a one-timer on a power play, but would have even less time to enjoy their second lead than they did their first. Before the crowd had completely settled down, Geoff Paukovich collected a rebound and hopped it over UW netminder Bernd Bruckler's shoulder to even up the scoreboard.
Wisconsin fans only had to wait 36 seconds in the middle session to see their team grab the lead. Badger freshman Joe Pavelski utilized a turnover to streak towards the goal unopposed and fire a wrister past Fisher's glove.
In what would be their second period trend, though, the Pioneers quieted the crowd and took advantage of a rare 5-on-3 power play to even the score three minutes later. Denver cycled the puck around until allowing Jon Foster a clear shooting lane with which to put in his seventh goal of the year, tying him for the national lead.
"It wasn't just a typical game," Bruckler said. "It went back and forth."
The second period did not come without its moment of controversy, however. Shortly past the halfway mark Denver forward Luke Fulgham put a shot on goal that deflected off the inside netting and quickly bounced out, leading the referees to declare a no-goal and continue play before the mistake was realized.
Denver took the first lead of the game at 7:38 of the first period courtesy of a Fulgham goal. The goal came after the senior slipped into the offensive zone and intercepted a weak pass from Badger defender Jeff Likens, setting him up with a breakaway against the defenseless Bruckler. It would be the Pioneers' only lead of the night.
The Badgers tied it up six minutes later when captain Adam Burish recovered Earl's blocked shot in the crease and dumped it into the open side of the net.
Denver and Wisconsin finish their series Saturday at 7:05 p.m.