After tonight's performance, it seems that Wisconsin finally has begun to navigate through the storm.
Getting goals in the first and last minute of the second period and 19 saves from backup Shane Connelly, the Badgers broke their six-game losing streak and shutout the Michigan State Spartans (6-6-1) 2-0 in the College Hockey Showcase.
"We've played some pretty good hockey and it's nice for these young men to get a win," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. "We had a collective sigh of relief that they finally get rewarded for their hard work."
The quest began early in the day for the Badgers in hopes of breaking their longest losing skid in 10 years when Eaves decided to dress one extra defensivemen than usual, putting seven on the ice rather than his usual six.
We liked some of the things we saw from our defensive core and we decided to do it again tonight," Eaves said. "We were at a point where we needed to stimulate growth, offense, something different. I wore a brown suit tonight and I never wear brown. It's getting to that point."
Eaves also gave the start in goal to Connelly, who hadn't seen time on the ice since October 7, during the team's morning skate.
"It doesn't matter who's in goal, we just needed to get a win," Eaves said.
The two moves proved invaluable, as Wisconsin blocked 20 of the Spartans' 35 shots on the night. With the shots that made it through the Badger line, Connelly was right there to stymie Michigan State, recording 19 saves for his first shutout of the season.
"[Playing Shane] was part of the big picture plan," Eaves said. "We have to sit down and lock out games where he can jump in and be ready to go. Not having played in such a long time, to step in and not only get a win, but get a shutout, that's a great thing for that young man."
"I wanted to go out there and help give the team a chance to win," Connelly said. "It was a weight off my shoulder to finally get out there and show the coaching staff and the team what I can do."
For the second consecutive night, Wisconsin jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Just moments into the second, team captain Andrew Joudrey skated across the ice and harmlessly fired a shot at Michigan State goalie Jeff Lerg. Luckily for Wisconsin, Lerg was screened on the play and the puck found the back of the net through the five-hole to give the Badgers the early lead.
Not only was the goal a big lift for the Badgers, it was a monkey off Joudrey's back, as the captain had been unable to find the net in Wisconsin's last nine games.
"I've been getting teased by the coaching staff for hitting posts and crossbars, so it's nice to get one," Joudrey said. "Much like the other guys, I've been knocking on the door so many times. I just finally got one home."
With the clock winding down in the second, the Badgers were looking to break another dreadful streak, converting on the power play. Wisconsin entered the game being scoreless on its last 16 power plays and with 56 seconds left, sophomore Ben Street snapped that streak as well.
Off a shot from winger Michael Davies, the puck drifted right to Street, who buried the shot in front of a wide-open net to give the Badgers some added insurance going into the final period.
"We've had a couple of leads going into the third that we haven't been able to put away," Street said. "[Tonight] was another opportunity for us to close it out and get the job done. I think it hurts a team to give a goal up late. It's sort of a backbreaker and maybe it took the wind out of their sales."
But unlike the night before, Wisconsin maintained their lead and didn't allow the Spartans to get back into the game. One of the main reasons for the Badgers' maintaining their lead was because of the play of Joudrey, who played out of character on Saturday night, which was evident by his two combative penalties in the game.
Not known for his aggressive style, Joudrey was aggressive to the court and physical on the boards all night for Wisconsin, helping the Badgers beat the Spartans for the first time in Madison during the Showcase event.
"[Joudrey] leads by example, that's what the captain's ‘C' means," Connelly said. "To see that he went out there, battled, got a goal and pushed people around. It means a lot to the team. Everyone is watching him and he went out there and performed well tonight."
Even so, the win was so liberating for Wisconsin, who will have two weeks to prepare for their trip to North Dakota during the second week of December. With the shutout victory and beating Michigan State for their first time in Madison during the Showcase event, coaches and players alike seem to think that the Badgers' ship is beginning to find calmer waters.
"We've started to take the ship in the right direction," Street said. "We've been consistent and have been working hard over time and things are paying off for us."
"We tuned the ship a little bit more to be with the wind," Eaves said. "Going into this break, hopefully it can give us some confidence, swagger and energy to help us come in next week and help us continue to work on what we need to do."