After blowing their first lead going into the third period all season on Friday night, Wisconsin vowed not to let it happen again. Thanks to Jake Dowell, the Badger corrected their mistakes and shut the door on Duluth.
Dowell scored two third period goals to help Wisconsin (3-1-2, 2-1-1 WCHA) rebound to win a hard-fought 5-2 decision against the Bulldogs (1-1-2, 0-1-1 WCHA) on the night where Wisconsin didn't play some of their best hockey.
"On a night where UMD should have gotten some points and we didn't have out ‘A' game, we hung in there, struggled and found a way to get two points at home," UW head coach Mike Eaves said.
After playing not to lose Friday night and blowing their one goal lead, Wisconsin was determined not to let the Bulldogs sneak back into Saturday night's contest and they made their point clear early in the third.
Starting the period on back-to-back power plays, Jake Dowell, the player the Badgers happily call the ‘Garbage man,' lived up to his billing, cleaning up the mess in front of the net and shoving the puck past freshman Alex Stalock just two minutes in to increase the Badger lead to two. Dowell wasn't done on the night, flinging another rebound in just beyond the crease late in the third to give Dowell his second multi-goal night and fifth of the season.
Being one of the lone Badger seniors on the team, Dowell has noticeably increased the level of his play, matching his entire goal total from last season in just the team's first six games.
"Jack is our poster child of our team identity," Eaves said. "We don't have that magic game-changing player anymore. In the NHL, 66 percent of the goals are rebound goals and we have to play that [percentage] more than any other team. It's terrific that he is recognizing what is strengths are and that he's doing those things to put himself in the position to score."
Dowell was surprised by Eaves' comments after the game, as he felt his physical attributes weren't up to the task.
"It's definitely not the looks," Dowell joked. "I don't mind getting in there and playing dirty and physical. Our identity is our hard work and it paid off [tonight]."
It was also a strong night for Wisconsin's younger players as freshmen Ben Grotting and Jamie McBain both scored their first career goal as Badger players and Andy Bohmbach, Blake Geoffrion and John Mitchell all added their first career points on assists.
"I know they were thrilled and their teammates were thrilled for them and now, they can cross that off their ‘things to do list' and get back to playing," Eaves said. "We've had guys step up to the plate [since the injuries]. We have asked a lot out of some young people."
Still, the Badgers had their work cut out for them throughout the night with the Bulldogs showing more fight than the Badgers threw the first two periods.
The Bulldogs struck first against Wisconsin, who hadn't allowed a first period goal all season, and their penalty kill, which had only given up two power play goals in 26 opportunities. Sophomore Michael Gergen put a dent in that statistic, taking a perfect touch pass from line mate Andrew Carroll and shot it past UW goalie Brian Elliott for the early 1-0 advantage.
But for the first time all season, Wisconsin had an answer in the first period, thanks to a pair of crisp passing plays starting by some of the Badgers youngest players. Playing even strength, freshman John Mitchell found fellow freshman Ben Grotting camped out in front of the net. Grotting didn't disappoint, tying the game with his first goal as a Badger.
"[The goal] felt great and it got our team going," Grotting said. "I can describe the feeling in front of all those fans and get the first one out of the way."
Just under two minutes later, Blake Geoffrion, one of the Badgers' seven freshman seeing ice time tonight, found himself on a two-on-one break with linemate Ben Street trailing. Geoffrion made a perfect cross-ice pass that wound up right on Street's stick and quickly into the back of the goal for a 2-1 lead. It was the first time all season Wisconsin had scored more than once heading into the third period, let alone twice in the first period, a period that had been 20 minutes of horror for the defending champions.
It was a disastrous five minutes for Duluth, as they outplayed Wisconsin the entire period.
"We had five bad minutes in the first 40 minutes," UMD head coach Scott Sandelin said. "I could be disappointed if when we lose and didn't play well, but I don't think we played bad. There are things we need to get better at defensively but other than that, we played pretty good."
While the Badgers thought they had escaped their first period woes, the second period turned into the troublesome for Eaves' crew, as they were out shot by the Bulldogs 15-5 in the second 20 minutes. More importantly for Duluth, they were able to get another goal passed their Badgers on their penalty kill, as Captain Matt McKnight scored his first on the season to tie the score.
Although Wisconsin only have five shots, another one of Wisconsin's freshmen, Jamie McBain, made it a good one, firing a shot in from the point in the final 12 seconds of the period to give the Badgers a lead they wouldn't relinquish and proved as the back-breaker for Duluth.
"That goal at the end of the period certainly gave them an advantage," Sandelin said. "I thought we played a pretty good hockey game. They had their opportunities and buried them. That was certainly the turning point of the game right there."
Coming out to the third, the Badgers regained their swagger, piggy backing off Dowell's two goals to win a victory in which many of the Wisconsin players felt they had been out-skated. Even with Wisconsin not playing solid hockey through the first 40 minutes, the Badgers still had their third period lead and knew that some of the best hockey was yet to come.
"It is good to always go into a break with a lead, especially when we know we haven't played our best hockey yet," Davies said. "We know our best was yet to come and we felt good going into the third."
Moreover, it was certainly a special night for Dowell, as his father John was in attendance to watch his son play for the first time in over a year. It was a special moment for Dowell to score two goals in front of his father in the Badger victory.
"It was definitely an awesome feeling getting to play in front of him," Dowell said. "I saw him out there and knew exactly where he was. To be able to get those couple goals and have him see, I was trying extra hard tonight."