Once again, the No. 14 Badgers got very little going offensively and leaned too hard on their netminder—a Hobey Baker finalist a year ago. The result was a 2-1 defeat at the hands of arch-rival Minnesota, their fourth straight loss and sixth in their last seven games.
"I think that we had to rely on Brian too much to come up with some big saves," UW head coach Mike Eaves said. "We said to the guys, in any team sport … the key statistic is turnovers and we turned the puck over too many times."
Indeed, the Badgers once again gave Elliott almost zero help on the offensive end. In five of the six losses during the current "storm"—to use an Eaves term—UW has scored one goal or less.
And his teammates really did not lend too much of a hand in his own zone either, especially the veterans which everyone has expected to carry the team.
For starters, senior captain Andrew Joudrey was whistled for interference less than a minute into the game, setting up a quick strike by Minnesota defenseman Alex Goligoski.
The veteran Gopher skated the puck to the point and, using two teammates as a screen, sent the puck past Elliott's glove before he even got his eyes on it.
"There's a little thing, we don't block a shot," Eaves said.
The Badgers responded well over the rest of the first and second periods, though they did not generate very many good chances. And UW continued to make too many mistakes.
"It was evident right from the get-go (the Gophers) wanted to dictate," Eaves said. "Good for them, that's what good teams should do."
At 16:04 of the second, it looked like Wisconsin would get its second power play of the game, but some extra-curricular activity by junior defenseman Davis Drewiske relegated them to four-on-four action.
Then, just 40 seconds later, senior Jeff Likens—an assistant captain and leader of the blue-liners—turned the puck over at his own blue line and was called for hooking as he chased Blake Wheeler into the zone to take away a goal-scoring chance.
To add on top of that, when the play was whistled dead, junior defenseman Kyle Klubertanz came storming in to send Ben Gordon flying into the goal to pick up another penalty. Suddenly, three veteran defensemen were throwing a party in the penalty box.
"I'm particularly disappointed with Mr. Likens and Mr. Klubertanz. These are two veterans on our team. We have to follow their lead."
"I don't think we were prepared, I don't think we were focused," Likens said. "I came out and on one of the first shifts, and I got beat up the wall. That's unacceptable.
"I didn't play very well. I think that the rest of the guys kind of carried me on their shoulders tonight when it should be the other way around."
Suddenly, a possible power play opportunity saw the Badgers short-handed—and furthermore down three-on-five—over the waning minutes of the second period.
But they escaped any further harm and, down just 1-0, were still alive heading into the final frame.
Minnesota, however, doubled its lead six minutes into the final period thanks to another UW turnover.
Wheeler forced another miscue at the Badger blue line and broke through for a two-on-one with freshman Jay Barriball. He found the rookie with a pass through the slot and Barriball made Wisconsin pay with a top-shelf, backhand shot into the top right corner of the net.
Elliott, sliding from his right to his left, once again had no chance to make the save.
The only bright point for UW came with less than five minutes left in the game as senior Ross Carlson scored his first goal of the season in his third game back since being injured.
He flung a shot from the top of the slot, off a Minnesota defenseman's stick and past Kellen Briggs. But by then it was too late and the Badgers were forced to settle for another one-goal loss—their third in the last four games.
"We did do some good things, but it was only in glimpses and we'll have to respond tomorrow night," Elliott said.
Wisconsin was outshot 35-26 for the game, and if there was any silver lining, it was that Saturday's outing was probably the best so far this season for Elliott, who made 33 saves.
"I felt really good in there," Elliott said. "But I think Martin Brodeur said, ‘If you feel good after a loss, there's something wrong with you.' We've got to get points out of these league games."
Then again, goaltending hasn't been the problem, and he is now forced to wait at least another day until he can get some help on the offensive end.
Maybe he put it best when he said, "I can't go out there and score any goals."
Adding injury to insult, the Badgers lost two freshmen forwards over the course of Saturday night's game with Minnesota, reducing them to just three lines for most of the night.
Rookie left-winger Blake Geoffrion went out on a nasty collision with the boards. Sliding in back-first, his head whipped back harshly. He laid motionless for a few moments, and when he eventually tried to stand up, nearly fell again and had a woozy, wobbly trip back to the locker room.
Later, freshman center Aaron Bendickson went out with what appeared to be a leg injury. As he braced himself to avoid checking a Gopher player from behind, his leg seemed to give out. He was on crutches after the game.
The good news is that neither player needed a visit to the hospital. However, Eaves declared both of them doubtful for Sunday night's series finale.
Minnesota senior Tyler Hirsch will not be in action on Sunday either as he will continue to sit out with academic issues. Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said the Gophers' scoring-leader had fallen behind in some classes and would return to the lineup when he caught up. He said he could be back as soon as next weekend if that occurred.