Nathan Lawson turned in a dominant performance for Alaska-Anchorage (12-18-6 overall), leading the Seawolves to a 2-1 win over No. 8 Wisconsin (22-12-4) at the Dane County Coliseum, and evening the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff series at one game apiece.
Lawson, a freshman, denied Wisconsin several scoring chances throughout the game and turned away 44 Badger shots, 18 in the second period alone.
"We're facing another hot goaltender," UW head coach Mike Eaves said. "Unorthodox as he is, he's making the stops. We can't get the rebounds, can't get the puck up on him and as a result we had trouble scoring tonight."
The UW coaches will be scratching their heads after losing a game in which they held a 45-23 advantage in shots, generated far more offensive opportunities and received an impressive performance from backup goalie Brian Elliott. As it stands, the Badgers face the possibility of losing their playoff opener in Madison to the Seawolves for the second year in a row.
"We aren't doing what it takes to win," Badger freshman Joe Pavelski said. "Once each and every guy on this team steps up and starts doing that much more, we'll start scoring and then we'll win some games."
Freshman Shea Hamilton notched the game winner midway through the second stanza, one second after his team's power play expired, with a blistering, long-range slapshot. The goal will be the rookie's last highlight of the weekend, however, as he received a game disqualification a few minutes later and will be suspended for Sunday night's contest.
The ejection resulted from an ugly brawl at the UAA goal that, in addition to seeing Hamilton sent to the locker room, resulted in a total of 26 penalty minutes and five players in the box, though Hamilton was the only disqualification for either team. The melee was the culmination of four-and-a-half periods worth of often overt tension between the teams.
"I've seen a lot of contact with our goalie for two nights and it escalated and we lose a guy and they don't," UAA head coach John Hill said. "It's bothersome to me but our guys found a way to win regardless."
Pavelski had scored an equalizer for the Badgers one minute into the second period after lifting a behind-the-net pass from Robbie Earl over the goalie's shoulder. The point was Pavelski's 43rd of the season.
For the second night in a row the Seawolves capitalized off of a huge Badger mistake to propel themselves into the lead. Cycling on a power play, rookie defender Kyle Klubertanz lost control of both the puck and his footing at the blue line, allowing opportunistic UAA forward Justin Johnson a clear path to the Badger goal. Johnson proceeded to outrace his Wisconsin pursuers and beat Elliott top shelf to open up a 1-0 lead for the visitors.
For UW's sophomore netminder, the score came only five seconds before he was to reach 100 straight minutes without surrendering a goal.
Sunday night will be déjà vu for the Badgers, who last year lost the third game of a first-round playoff series to UAA despite holding an almost identical advantage in shots attempted through two games as they do now.
"We did a lot of good things," Eaves said. "You don't outshoot a team 2-to-1 and out-chance them without doing some good things. Bottom line, though, is that the goalie is hot so we have to find a way to get the puck in the net … We out-chanced them 2-to-1 last year too, that scenario is pretty similar. It's about finding a way to find the back of the net."
The Badgers will attempt to advance to their first Final Five of the Mike Eaves era Sunday night at 7:07 pm at the Alliant Energy Center Coliseum in Madison.