It is hard to put a finger on why the Badgers (11-4-0, 8-3-0 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) came away with a victory against the Bulldogs (7-6-2, 5-4-0 WCHA). The offense was not running on all cylinders, the defense was good, but not great, and two of the team's goals were more contingent on luck than skill.
"All I can say is that we scored a third goal and they didn't," UW head coach Mike Eaves said.
Minnesota-Duluth, now losers of six of their last nine, played no worse than the hosts for most of the contest, but in the end just did not get the necessary breaks. The Badgers, on the other hand, were the beneficiaries of some favorable bounces and put forth just enough effort to hold their opponents at bay and claim two points.
"I don't think they really did anything better than us," UMD head coach Scott Sandelin said. "We had some chances and we couldn't score, and they capitalized on their opportunities. That's the name of the game sometimes."
Adam Burish's game-winning goal midway into the third period characterized the contest fairly well. After accepting a cross-ice pass from freshman defenseman Kyle Klubertanz, Burish drove in on net and failed to get a shot off, but still registered the score when the puck slid under the leg of UMD goalie Josh Johnson to put Wisconsin ahead 3-1.
"It was a tough night, it was one of those nights where things just aren't going your way," Burish said. "But it's encouraging that we found a way to come together and get a win."
Duluth kept its hopes alive and pulled within one goal two minutes later when Nick Anderson took the puck off a faceoff and quickly rifled it into the far side of the net. The goal was a good representation of the Duluth offense's night — good, but not enough.
Robbie Earl gave Wisconsin the opening lead at 14:55 of the first period with a well-aimed shot into the top corner of the net. But the Badgers, only a split second away from taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, were set back when Tim Stapleton utilized a man advantage to equalize with a hard slapshot as the buzzer sounded.
Typical of UMD's night was what followed. Having just tied the game at the end of the first, the Bulldogs went on a power play 16 seconds into the middle stanza. Though the scenario provided a golden opportunity to build up some momentum and grab the lead, UW saw the threat off and regained control of the match with a goal three minutes later.
"That to me was an important power play and an important penalty kill, on the flip side, for Wisconsin," Sandelin said. "They got some momentum, came back and got a goal. That's how the game goes."
And like Burish's game-winner, it was a UMD mishap that made it possible. The goal came when Badger forward Jake Dowell circled the net and sent a pass to teammate Ross Carlson, stationed in front of net. The pass wound up deflecting off the skate of Duluth defender Neil Petruic and through the crease for a 2-1 Wisconsin lead.
"We won the game, but we won it by the lucky bounces," Earl said.
Tensions spilled over at numerous points in the second period, with five roughing penalties and 12 trips to the penalty box between the two teams. The players regained their composure, however, and made it through the final session with only one penalty.
It is doubtful that the Badgers will be able to win with another night like Friday's performance and will need to step up their game in order to sweep the series. For the Bulldogs, one more play might have been enough to change the whole game. Duluth will likely put forth a stronger effort Saturday, realizing that a win is within their grasp.
Game two takes place Saturday night at 7:07 p.m. at the Kohl Center.