In the Zone against North Dakota

Although the goalie opposite him could be the best in college hockey, UW goalie Shane Connelly showed that he deserved to have his name listed among them.

MADISON - Wisconsin goalie Shane Connelly admitted to be pretty jacked up for Friday night's game against the No.3 North Dakota Fighting Sioux in Madison.

He quickly calmed down after they introduced him as back up goalie, freshman Scott Gudmandson.

"It was something that was actually good for me," Connelly said about the mixup. "It brought me down to reality and gave me a laugh going into the start of the game."

There was nothing funny about Connelly's play, as he stopped 43 shots in 4-0 Badger victory. Needless to say, he was a vital part of the win and a rallying point for a team that struggled early.

The ambiance of the Kohl Center is unlike any other NCAA hockey rink. North Dakota has had a history of losing at the Kohl Center, as the Sioux are 1-5 in their last six games in Madison. Whether it be the Kohl Center's Olympic-size rink or unlucky bounces, the Sioux have a hard time getting used to the surroundings of the Kohl.

North Dakota (4-3-1, 2-3-0) came into the game ranked No.3 in the country with arguably the best goaltender in the WCHA in Jean-Philippe Lamourex. Once again, the Badgers (5-2-0, 2-1-0) were the underdogs because of their youth compared to the veteran squad of the Fighting Sioux. The North Dakota offense is equipped with great shooters including winger Ryan Duncan, the 2007 Hobey Baker Award winner. With all of these positives on the Sioux's side, Connelly still shut them out with a win.

The Badgers came off to a slow start in the first period against the fast pace North Dakota veteran team. Looking overmatched and unable to match North Dakota's size and strength, the entire first period looked as if played in slow motion, draining the energy from the 14,000 Badger fans in attendance.

However, an early power play for North Dakota stated to swing the momentum towards the Badgers went UND playmaker T.J. Oshie uncontested wrister hit the post.

"At my size, I know that they are expecting to go high," Connelly said. "They've got some great talent on that team and I was lucky to get a shoulder on Duncan and have Oshie miss the net. I was kind of thankful there because I wasn't in very good position on that one."

This was the story for the entire night; nothing could go wrong for Wisconsin and everything could go wrong for North Dakota. The Badgers needed a boost of momentum in order to get themselves back in the game, mentally.

The second period started heating up with North Dakota peppering Connelly with shots. The junior goalie did not even flinch, keeping his glove high and constantly moving.

"I expect them to come up high and it's going to be that way for the rest of the season," the 5-9 Connelly said. "At my size, I know that they are expecting to go high."

What Friday night's game came down to was the battle of the goalies. Lamourex came into the game leading the nation with a .958 save percentage and a 1.06 goals against averaged (minimum of two starts). Although he stopped 20 shots, Lamourex continues to be haunted by the Kohl Center, losing his third game via the shutout to three different Badger goalies (1-0 to Bernd Bruckler in 2004 and 1-0 to Brian Elliott in 2006).

North Dakota never adjusted its game to match the Badgers' physicality in the final two periods and, more importantly, couldn't get anything past Connelly.

"Anytime you throw 43 shots on goal (and don't score), the other team is doing something right," Lamourex praised. "You've got to tip your hat to Connelly because he played a hell of the game."

The only negative on UW's 4-0 win was the numerous odd man rushes on Connelly, which was Wisconsin's problem last Friday night in its loss against Michigan Tech. Being out numbered puts any goalie in a touch position, but that didn't faze Shane. Keeping his cool throughout the entire game, especially during the third period where he made 25 saves, Connelly stepped up when he was needed the most.

"I was in the zone, nothing else really mattered," Connelly said. "The puck looked like a beach ball out there tonight ... They could have thrown 30, 40 shots at me in the third period and I would have been fine."

Connelly turned a new leaf tonight. After having a tough series against Michigan Tech, where he seemed to have a hard time seeing the puck against the Huskies, Connelly not only saw the puck tonight, but never gave the Sioux a glimpse of hope with putting a goal in.

"Two things. A, he was seeing the puck very well and B, he couldn't have picked a better night to do it," said Head Coach Mike Eaves on Connelly's night. "We needed his efforts and for a young team to get a goaltending show like that, Shane was part of the formula winning tonight and our hope is he continues to see that puck."

North Dakota is the toughest team Wisconsin has faced so far and, with the help of Connelly, prove that the Badgers are starting to raise eyebrows. Wisconsin has the offense, the defense and now the goaltender they desperately needed. Connelly played on of the best games of his career and showed the potential he possesses.

"We had not seen this type of performance all season from Shane," Eaves said. "We were hoping to. This is part of his test, in terms of his growth, and he passed it with flying colors tonight. That's a tremendous thing for him. Just think of the confidence level he has after playing a game like he played tonight and for his teammates, as well."

Badger Nation Top Stories