But Wisconsin still had their ninth best scorer and boy, did he ever step up when the battered Badgers needed him most.
Senior Jake Dowell forced a North Dakota turnover in the Sioux's zone and knocked in the rebound for the only goal of the night as the Badgers salvaged a split by beating the No.5 Fighting Sioux 1-0.
Just eight minutes into the third in a scoreless game, Dowell's pressure and persistence paid off as he forced the puck away from UND defensivemen Joe Finley. The puck went right to UW captain Andrew Joudrey, who fired an uncontested shot at goalie Philippe Lamoureux. Lamoureux was unable to contain the puck and a melee ensued. The ruckus ended with Dowell finishing what he started, knocking the puck in from just beyond the crease for the winning and only tally.
"We were looking to make a spark," Dowell said. ‘What we were trying to do all game was try to keep our hits up, try to wear them down and cause a turnover. It just happened to be that time and Joudrey picked up the pick and I just trailed in.
"We had something to prove tonight that we lost and we felt embarrassed last night," Dowell added. "We did play desperate tonight."
The Badgers, who felt like they were embarrassed the night before, talked all day about getting a fast start. Although the execution was lacking at times, the Badgers were fighting for loose pucks more, blocking more shots and delivering hard checks to the Sioux players.
"We responded tremendously [in the first]," Eaves said. "There was a lot of discussion about being one-stick length of our opponent. We didn't finish plays last night and we did that tonight."
The struggles still continue for the Badgers in the first period however, not registering a goal in the first 20 minutes for the fourth consecutive game, while managing only three shots on Lamouruex and none of them could be qualified as quality attempts. Still, North Dakota didn't take advantage, as the Sioux, much like the Badgers the night before, came out flat on their skates.
"They were a hungry team [in the first]," North Dakota assistant captain Erik Fabian said. "We came out flat and give them credit. They got a fast start and talked about the start all day today. We didn't listen and they came out and made a push right away."
North Dakota got there energy back in the second and thought they had drawn first blood in game. On a three on two break, sophomore T.J. Oshie drilled a shot from the left face-off circled that nailed the right crossbar. Unfortunately for Oshie, he hit the bar straight on; causing the puck to bounce straight back to Elliott and he was able to fall on it before it trickled across the goal line. It was the closest all night the Sioux were to getting the puck past Elliott, who registered his 13th career shutout.
"Last night we got into [Elliott] and got into his face," Fabian said. "We crashed the net really hard and tonight, we didn't do that. We let him see every shot."
For head coach Mike Eaves, the Badgers would be in dire straights without Elliott and his defensivemen keeping Wisconsin close in games.
"He's given us a chance," Eaves said. "With the goaltending that we have and the veteran defense, give us a chance to competitive every game, even with the type of young lineup that we have. We played the exact game that we needed to play to give ourselves a chance to win."
While it's only the second week of the Badgers season, Wisconsin looked at tonight's match up as a must have and now that the Badgers have come away with a split, this could be the jolt and the building block that gets Wisconsin moving in the right direction.
"It was a critical time in this young season with a lot of fresh faces not playing the way we wanted to and the identity we wanted to," Eaves said. "It's one of those little moments of the season where we were actually in the middle of a storm and responded quite well. Now we can build on that."
Regardless, all of Wisconsin's injury and rotation problems became a mute point when Dowell registered his third goal of the year. For a player who was ninth on the team in points last year, Dowell now leads the Badgers in points this season. Although that could be expected from the senior assistant captain, coach Mike Eaves attributes Dowell's play to taking on a bigger leadership role with the team and making the younger players follow his lead.
"Jack's play tonight has been indicative on how he's came back and played at a higher level all year," Eaves said. "There's something extra in his step and a purpose and has done a nice job in not only taking his game to the next level, but his teammates as well."