Just hours after the Wisconsin football team suffered defeat at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs in the Outback Bowl, the Badger men's hockey team fell victim to Bulldogs of a different breed, again.
After salvaging an advancing tie with the Yale Bulldogs in the opening round of the Badger Hockey Showdown, No. 4 Wisconsin (13-6-1, 10-4-0 WCHA) failed to reclaim the tournament title from the Ferris State Bulldogs (8-10-2, 3-7-2 CCHA) at the Kohl center Saturday night.
The win gave Ferris State its second consecutive Showdown title. Tournament Most Valuable Player Jeff Legue paced the Bulldogs with a pair of goals Saturday.
"Everybody knew that with hard work we would come out on top and each individual guy stepped up tonight," Legue said.
Much like the previous engagement with Yale, frequent turnovers haunted Wisconsin.
"I take really seriously what happened this weekend," Wisconsin forward and captain Adam Burish said. "It needs to be addressed and it will be addressed."
The flurry of miscues began at faceoff and pervaded every aspect of the Badgers' game. As a result, Ferris State dominated Wisconsin at even strength, where they secured all but one of their five goals and out-shot the Badgers 30-14 on the night (42-21 overall).
"We had unforced errors," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. "We had unforced errors at every position. And when you have a game like that, this is what happens."
Just 12 seconds into the Badgers' second power play, an interference call on forward Matt Auffrey neutralized the Wisconsin advantage. The ensuing four-on-four led to the Bulldogs' first goal, a tap in by Legue off an assist from right wing Derek Nesbitt. While defending Nesbitt, Badger defenseman Tom Gilbert effectively screened Wisconsin goalkeeper Bernd Bruckler, allowing Legue to score on the wrist shot.
Two minutes later, the Bulldogs capitalized on their lone power play opportunity in the first period as Nesbitt nailed home a slapshot from the Badger blue line on the swing feed from defenseman Matt York.
The final Ferris State goal of the period came with 4:16 remaining on the clock. Sophomore Matt Verdone centered the puck to fellow winger Zac Pearson who drilled the slapshot past Bruckler.
Looking to correct the offensive stagnancy of the opening period, Eaves opted for a neutral zone adjustment. Heading into the second period, Wisconsin started to kick the puck back to the defensemen and advance it back up the weak side. The move sparked the only offensive productivity the Badgers enjoyed all weekend.
The Bulldogs managed to contain the Badgers' offense late in the period, but not before Wisconsin evened the score.
"That was creating a lot of problems for us," Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said. "So we stopped cutting the ice and just let our forwards stay wide."
In the opening minute of the period, Badger center Joe Pavelski juked Bulldog left winger Mark Bomersback and centered the puck to freshman Matt Ford. Ford fired it past veteran netminder Mike Brown to cut the Ferris State lead to 3-1.
At 8:14 in the period, the freshman struck again. Junior forward Ryan MacMurchy connected with Ford, who netted his second goal of the game and third of the season. For the newcomer who marked his debut in college hockey with a penalty hat trick just over a month ago, the solid performance proved encouraging.
"I had one period all weekend – but it's starting to come around," Ford said. "I'm starting to find my game."
With six minutes left in the period, MacMurchy took a feed from Ford and scored on the Badger power play to even the score at 3-3. The equalizer was MacMurchy's fifth goal of the season and Ford's first assist as a Badger.
From there, however, things went downhill for the Badgers.
"I told the guys that we shouldn't be too worried because we're still getting our opportunities," Daniels said. "If we played well defensively, I felt we had a very good chance to win this game."
Ferris State recaptured the lead early in the third period with a goal by Legue off an assist from Pearson. Two minutes later, Bulldog senior forward Carter Thompson grabbed a rebound and rifled the puck into the corner of the net to give Ferris State a comfortable 5-3 margin, which they maintained for the duration of play.
"We went out and shot ourselves in the foot again," Eaves said. "The turnovers just kept creeping up. You can't win, in any sport, that way."
Prior to the Wisconsin loss, Clarkson – which fell in the opening round to Ferris State – thrashed Yale 8-1 in the afternoon consolation match.