Youth Educates Experience

Despite their opponents having 14 seniors on their roster, the Badgers use a combination of youthful exuberance and solid goaltending to earn a weekend sweep, earning an 8-2 victory Saturday night.

MADISON - Good news Patrick, you only have 124 more goals to go to tie your dad.

Although it triggered a laugh from the young forward, freshman Patrick Johnson's goal midway through the first period proved to be the game winner, as Wisconsin completed a weekend sweep of Robert Morris, beating the Colonials 8-2 Saturday night.

With under seven minutes to go and the Badgers comfortably ahead 2-0, Johnson seemingly took a harmless shot at goalie Wes Russell. Lucky for Johnson that his shot ricocheted off Russell's right skate and into the back of the net for his first collegiate goal and a 3-0 UW lead.

"As a hometown kid, you always dream about playing for the Badgers," said Johnson, who is the son of Badger hockey great and program leading scorer Mark Johnson. "You think it's going to come true and it actually did. I didn't really look where it went, but it was a good feeling."

It was the beginning of a prosperous night for freshmen Badgers, as forward Podge Turnbull scored his first of the night, which could not have come at a more crucial time.

With Robert Morris (2-2-0) cutting into the Wisconsin lead to 3-2 with goals from J.C. Verlasquez and Ryan Cruthers, Turnbull threaded a wrister to beat Russell glove side to stop Robert Morris' momentum.

"As well as we were playing, it was only 3-2," said UW head coach Mike Eaves, who's team moves to 3-1 on the season. "Getting that fourth goal was really something we needed at the time and we went from there."

It was the second night in a row that Robert Morris had crawled back into the game, only to have the Badgers kill the Colonials' momentum, as Friday night saw freshman Kyle Turris score with four seconds left in the second half to extend the Wisconsin lead back to three. It was that goal, along with Turnbull's goal, that head coach Derek Schooley admitted was the two back breakers to his team this weekend.

"We're playing well seven minutes and we had a long defensive zone shift on," Schooley said. "For some reason, we tried to make a cute play that turns into a turnover and it snowballed from there."

Early on, the puck seemingly found every Wisconsin player's stick except Turnbull, which was evident by the Badgers first three goals.

Trying to beat Russell on a wrap around, Turnbull was denied when his attempt deflected off RMU defenseman Denny Urban's skate. Instead of the puck bouncing into the corner, the puck caromed right to UW center Blake Geoffrion, who buried it into the back of the net.

"I've got to give credit to my linemates, especially to Podge," Geoffrion said. "We helped each other out a lot tonight."

Wisconsin's second goal was set up when Turnbull charged in to clean up the potential rebound. Instead, the rebound bounced off Russell right to freshman Kyle Turris. With Turnbull still right in front of Russell, Turris had a wide-open net and buried his nation-leading fifth goal of the year.

Along with his fifth goal, Turris added three more assists, bringing his national-leading assist total to seven and point total to 12.

But as soon as Robert Morris made its critical turnover, the Colonials never recovered, as Kyle Klubertanz and Brendan Smith added goals and Michael Davies added two to finish off the scoring.

"(Wisconsin) smelled blood and we self-destructed," Schooley said.

After playing in three straight contests, Wisconsin gave junior goalie Shane Connelly the night off and gave freshman Scott Gudmandson is first career start in net. He responded by making 25 saves, including a spectacular point-blank glove save late in the third, to earn his first collegiate victory.

The decision to start Gudmandson was a ringing endorsement for the young goaltender, looking at recent Wisconsin history. Hobey Baker Finalist Brian Elliott didn't start until his sixth game as a freshman and Shane Connelly, if Elliott hadn't been injured, probably wouldn't have seen the ice at all his first season. When asked, Eaves admitted that the young goalie is ahead of the learning curve.

"He looked a little nervous, wasn't too sure on some of the pucks but to his credit, some of those pucks were coming in there like knuckleballs," Eaves said. "Confidence is 50 percent of a goaltender's equipment and he has that going for him."

For Gudmandson, all the freshman could talk about was the atmosphere in the stands than his performance on the ice.

"The most people I had ever played in front of before were 1,000 people," Gudmandson said. "Here is obviously different. It was ridiculous. They are wild. I have never experienced anything like it. I was pretty nervous out there and I think it showed in the first two periods."

With four inexperienced lines and three new defensemen, Wisconsin success on the power play and penalty kill is the glaring statistic that stands out about Eaves' club. Over the weekend, the Badgers converted on 8-of-17 power play chances (47 percent) and killed off 14-of-15 penalties (93 percent). On the season in 26 power play chances, the Badgers have tallied a goal 10 times while killing off 27 of 31 power plays.

"With the ability that these young people were bringing in, we felt that we would find chemistry and be able to create some things on the power play," Eaves said. "These young people have found that chemistry, taking what's given and having a very important impact on the games we have played thus far."

Although Schooley admitted that he wanted to apologize to Eaves for not giving Wisconsin much of a better weekend, Eaves pointed out that without the two goals that were scored by Turris and Turnbull that changed the momentum of the game, the end results could have turned out differently.

"There are no easy opponents out there. We worked for everything we got," Eaves said. "We were just able to take advantage of our opportunities."


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