Not Dead Yet

Just when you thought Wisconsin was dead in the water, the Badgers sweep the Pioneers on the road in Colorado to make a return visit to the WCHA Final Five.

In a matchup of the last two NCAA men's hockey national champions, Wisconsin showed why they're still the defending national champion.

The Badgers pulled off their most impressive feat so far in this up-and-down season, with a shocking road sweep of No. 11 Denver at Magness Arena. UW punched its ticket to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul next week with a 2-1 victory Saturday night.

Wisconsin's top line got the Badgers' offense going early, when forward Jack Skille hit DU goaltender Glenn Fisher high with a shot from the boards. The rebound bounced out to UW captain and forward Andrew Joudrey, who slapped home his eighth tally of the season at 10:48 of the first, giving the Badgers a 1-0 lead. The Badgers' second goal came from an unlikely source, in an unlikely situation. Wisconsin notched just its fifth shorthanded goal of the year on a 2-on-1 rush, when forward Andy Brandt received a perfect pass from forward Ross Carlson and tipped it in for his second of the season. Brandt's earlier goal this year also came at Denver on Jan. 6, in the form of an empty-netter.

Senior defenseman Jeff Likens earned helpers on both of UW's first-period scores.

But just like Game 1, Denver's offense woke up in the second period and took back momentum. A defensive turnover by defenseman Josh Engel led to a scramble in front of the UW net, and goaltender Brian Elliott got all turned around looking for his stick. DU forward Rhett Rhakshani took advantage, pumping in his tenth goal of the year at 8:27 of the middle period. 23 seconds after Rhakshani's goal, UW defenseman Joe Piskula drew a cross-checking penalty, and DU put together a swarming power play opportunity. But none of four Pioneer shots got by Elliott, and Wisconsin held onto a 2-1 lead with just one period to go.

Both teams had great chances early in the third period. Three and a half minutes in, Fisher was caught behind his net and Wisconsin forward Tom Gorowsky shot at an open net, but released too quickly and hit the left post. As the puck went the other way, Fisher slammed his stick down in frustration over nearly giving the Badgers a gigantic two-goal cushion.

About a minute later, DU forward Ryan Dingle hit linemate Brock Trotter with a perfect pass, and the Pioneers' leading scorer had a clear breakaway. But when Trotter deked to Elliott's left, Wisconsin's All-American goalie made a huge stuff of the puck with his leg pad, and Trotter never got a real shot off.

Denver called a timeout with 2:23 remaining, and chose to pull Fisher for an extra man. But the Pioneers did not get a shot off with the sixth attacker, and Wisconsin finished off the shocking series sweep.

Both goalies faced a plethora of shots Saturday night. Elliott finished with 36 saves in his 50th career win. Fisher made 35 stops in what could be his final collegiate game, should Denver fail to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

In other WCHA Game 2 action, Alaska-Anchorage shocked top seed Minnesota in overtime 2-1 and forced a third game; St. Cloud State avoided elimination with a 3-2 overtime victory over Minnesota-Duluth; North Dakota moved on to the WCHA Final Five with a 2-1 defeat of Minnesota State, Mankato; and Colorado College evened its series with Michigan Tech with a 2-0 triumph. Only UND and UW advanced to the Final Five in two games; the other three series will be decided with Game 3s on Sunday night.

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