Oh, how the Badgers could have used Earl and Pavelski tonight.
No.5 North Dakota (3-0-0, 1-0-0 WCHA) scored two goals on Elliott during a three minute stretch in the second period and added the winning score in the early minutes of overtime to spoil No.2 Wisconsin's (1-1-1, 0-1-0 WCHA) home opener by winning a 3-2 overtime decision.
With the score tied at two at the end of regulation, Wisconsin freshman Jamie McBain, one of five freshmen to suit up for the Badgers tonight, corralled the loose puck behind the Wisconsin net. McBain went for a reverse around the net and made a pass to where he thought one of his defensivemen was located. Much to his chagrin, the space was occupied by North Dakota freshman Darcy Zajac, who took the puck and threw it past Elliott for the deciding score.
"[Jamie] was trying to make the right play," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. "The puck got caught up on his stick and the next thing you know, people are crashing in front of the net. He knew what he wanted to do. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for him. We made the error and they capitalized on it."
"It's tough losing like that in overtime," senior captain Andrew Joudrey said. "It is a freshman mistake and we've all been there."
With Wisconsin up 1-0 midway through the second and North Dakota on the power play, UND sophomore Ryan Duncan fired a shot from the right face off circled that glanced off Elliott's glove and into the back of the net to tie the score. The power play goal not only ended Elliott's goalless streak, but ended a streak of 45 straight power plays killed off by the Badger defense.
Just over two minutes later, North Dakota struck again, this time from senior captain Chris Porter, who fired another shot that glanced off Elliott's glove and found its way into the back of the net to give the Sioux a one goal advantage going into the third period.
"We tried to keep our game simple," Zajac said. "The crowd gets into it and gets you going sometimes. Momentum was shifting all over the ice tonight and we had to make the turnaround quick to keep the crowd out of it."
Wisconsin quickly jumped back into the game after the second intermission, as sophomore Jack Skille rifled a shot passed UND goalie Philippe Lamoureux to tie the score. Unfortunately for Skille, that would be the last good feeling he had the rest of the night.
With Wisconsin already skating without senior Ross Carlson, who left the game early in the second period with a leg injury, Skille got caught between two Sioux defensemen and fell to the ice riving in pain. After several minutes on the ice, Skille was helped to the locker room holding his right elbow and did not return.
"You don't like to see people get hurt, but when they're out, we have to take advantage of it," Porter said. "They're good players and they make a difference in the game. We saw them go out and it gave our team some motivation to get [a goal] before they get back because they are good players."
Much like the Badgers two previous games against Northern Michigan, Wisconsin came out flat in the first period, unable to get any advantage on the ice or on the scoreboard, attempting only six shots at Lamoureux in the first and not finding any solid scoring chances until junior Matt Ford scored Wisconsin's first goal.
Ford got behind the Sioux defense and received a perfect pass from McBain. Ford went heads up with Lamoureux and beat him top shelf to give Wisconsin the early advantage.
"I got caught behind the defense and Jamie McBain made a really nice pass that landed right on my stick," Ford said. "I was all alone with the goalie and put it in up top."
But it was the turnovers and the sluggish start that doomed Wisconsin again. In three games this season, the Badgers have failed to register a goal, or seemingly any type of momentum, that could propel them later in the game.
"Against teams like North Dakota and other teams in our league, we can play like we did," Joudrey said. "We were lucky to tie the game up the way we did. There are no excuses playing the way we did. Shame on us if we don't start off well tomorrow night."
The same could be said about the celebration before the game. Much like the Wisconsin women's team, the first period saw sloppy play from the Badgers and with an inexperienced group like this year's Wisconsin team, they can't afford to play with mistakes.
"You can say tonight that it was our first game in the Kohl Center and raising the banner and all, but there are no more excuses now," Joudrey said. "Everyone's played in the Kohl Center and experienced the crowd. It's over with and we can move on.
"It is what it is. It's over and done with and now we need to focus on tomorrow night."