UW junior defenseman Matt Olinger laid a nasty hit on Sioux freshman forward T.J. Oshie, resulting in a game misconduct and a five-minute power play for North Dakota.
But instead of the UND offense snagging the momentum and possibly pulling off a comeback victory, it was the Wisconsin penalty kill that rose to the occasion, killing off the major penalty, which eventually secured a 4-2 victory for the No. 9 Badgers (5-1-1, 4-0-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association).
"You take a look at turning points, that was one of them," UW head coach Mike Eaves said. "The guys were great on the bench. They had a great attitude once the penalty was called and they went to work at it."
"It wasn't panic, it was ‘Let's get this done,'" sophomore forward Joe Pavelski said. "Everybody rose up on the bench."
UW junior goalie Brian Elliott had another solid outing, making 28 saves, including some mighty big ones during that five-minute stretch, and led the team to its first victory in Grand Forks since October of 2001.
Elliott got help early on from the Wisconsin offense. North Dakota (5-3-1, 1-2-0 WCHA) hadn't given up a single first-period goal all season, outscoring its opponents 8-0, but the Badgers bucked the trend with the game's first two goals.
The Badgers' fourth line got the ball rolling on just its first shift of the night at 3:39 of the opening period.
Senior forward Nick Licari skated into the offensive zone from the left side on a two-on-one break. He wound up for a big shot, but instead made a nifty pass to sophomore forward Matt Ford who deposited the puck for his first goal of the season.
"That was awesome," Pavelski said. "As soon as Nicky cocked, you could see everything broke down. It was like slow motion from there."
Freshman forward Jack Skille doubled the lead with less than three minutes to go in the period. Junior forward Jake Dowell carried the zone and battled to North Dakota players for the puck in the left circle.
Skille came in from the right and backhanded the puck to the right side of UND junior goalie Jordan Parise.
Suddenly, North Dakota found itself down 2-0. The Sioux did, however, get one goal back on a power play in the final minute of the period.
"You're not going to go the whole year without giving up the first goal," UND head coach Dave Hakstol said. "I thought we were a little tight to start the hockey game. The power play goal at the end of the first period really loosened us up."
Wisconsin brought its lead back to two at 8:44 of the second period. Team captain and senior forward Adam Burish wrestled the puck off the boards and threw a pass towards the slot.
Junior forward Robbie Earl split two Sioux defenders and got his stick on the puck, shooting it straight up and over Parise extending the lead to 3-1.
The turning point came at 11:58 of the second stanza with Olinger's penalty.
North Dakota's power play was strong, getting the puck to the net multiple times, but one way or another, Elliott was able to slam the door and kill off the five minute major.
"It was definitely a momentum swing," assistant captain and senior defenseman Tom Gilbert said. "Either they're going to get one and bring it to us or we're going to kill it off and get all the momentum going."
For Olinger, the 15 minutes worth of penalties he was assessed (five minutes for checking from behind and a 10-minute game misconduct) equaled one more minute than he received all of last year.
Nonetheless, the Badgers made up for his rare miscue.
Pavelski put UW up 4-1 at 8:50 of the final period but UND responded just two minutes later, cutting the deficit back to two and showing a light at the end of the tunnel.
That hope was all for not, however, as senior forward Mike Prpich took a five-minute major of his own just minutes later.
Elliott continues to answer preseason critics who were concerned over the loss of Bernd Bruckler. In the junior's last 11 starts, he has not allowed more than two goals in any given game.
"I don't think it's surprising to me … I go out there to stop them all," he said. "Two is pretty good. You can win a lot of games if you only let in two goals."
Wisconsin is also showing its depth, as it got goals from three of its four lines. Once again, Eaves shuffled the lineup, moving Dowell in between junior Andrew Joudrey and senior Ryan MacMurchy and putting freshman Ben Street at center with junior Ross Carlson and Skille.
Parise, who was one of the hottest goaltenders in the country coming in—with a .960 save percentage and 1.18 goals against average in five games—gave up four scores and made 20 saves.
"They did a good job of creating a couple of tip-in goals and opportunities on top of our crease," Hakstol said."
The Badgers will look to crash his net again tomorrow night, looking for the same outcome and their first road sweep of the Sioux since the 1995-96 WCHA playoffs.