Badger Hockey: Out of their Control

After being swept out of the WCHA playoffs by St. Cloud State, all the Badgers can do now is wait and hope.

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Two weekends ago, the Wisconsin men's hockey team left St. Cloud on the heels of a loss, uncertain about its playoff future.

With a 4-3 overtime loss Saturday, it's the same story all over again.

A goal by Huskies forward Ryan Lasch 3:57 into overtime sent the Badgers home as losers of the WCHA playoff series, forcing them to sit in anticipation of their chances at the NCAA tournament.

"It's emotional. It's tough on everyone," sophomore forward Aaron Bendickson said after the game. "You hear just dead silence in the locker room."

Bendickson's sentiment seemed to be one shared by the entire Badger team after they failed to extend the series to a third and final game.

"I'm still searching for answers myself," said UW goaltender Shane Connelly, who was pulled after the first period, a period in which he gave up two goals on just nine shots. "It's tough to swallow."

St. Cloud wasted no time jumping on the desperate Badgers early, scoring just 26 seconds into the contest. Defenseman Aaron Brocklehurst fired a wrister from above the left faceoff circle and the puck trickled past UW goaltender Shane Connelly, who played the shot at an awkward angle.

"It's unacceptable, that first period, on my behalf," Connelly said.

Sophomore Blake Geoffrion pulled Wisconsin even with a one-timer from freshman Kyle Turris. Geoffrion's goal—his tenth of the season—found just enough space between SCSU goalie Jase Weslosky and the pipe to sneak in.

Each team thought they had scored again in the first, but both plays were called off.

On a play in the Badger zone, Connelly mishandled the puck and allowed Ryan Lasch to gain control of it. After skating back to the crease, Connelly was bumped into and Lasch wrapped the puck around to score. But after review, the play was called no goal as Connelly was interfered with.

Wisconsin's Aaron Bendickson also thought he had a goal when he charged on the net and the puck trickled past Weslosky. Bendickson slid into the net as the puck was crossing the goal line, so the referees ruled the goal didn't count.

St. Cloud State would go on to take the lead near the end of the first period—and capture the game's momentum heading into intermission.

Just as a penalty on the Badgers was expiring, Matt Stephenson sent a wrister from the right point that beat Connelly to his right side. For Stephenson, it was just his second goal of the season, but gave his team the 2-1 lead after one.

Wisconsin entered the second frame with a different goaltender in net and a different attitude on the ice. After Connelly gave up two goals on just nine shots, head coach Mike Eaves decided to put freshman Scott Gudmandson between the pipes.

"It's a tough situation to go into," said Gudmandson, who saw action in his first playoff game Saturday. "It's exciting to go into."

The move seemed to jumpstart the Badgers, as they went on to score the game's next two goals and take a 3-2 lead.

In the first minute of play in the second, captain Davis Drewiske skated into the St. Cloud zone, pulled back and fired a shot from the point. His fourth goal of the season tied things up at two apiece.

Just over five minutes later, Bendickson found the net on another play that was reviewed by officials. This time, it was ruled a goal, Bendickson's sixth of the season.

Bendickson fired a shot close to the net, and the puck was deflected into the air. The puck bounced into the net just before the goal came off the mooring, but it was ruled that it crossed the goal line before the net came free, giving UW a 3-2 edge.

"[Bendickson gave us] great jump," UW head coach Mike Eaves said. "We tried to incorporate him more and put him in there with Kyle (Turris) a couple of times. … That was great to see. It gave us a real spark."

Near the end of the second, SCSU's John Swanson tied things up with a power play goal 14:58 into the period. Garrett Roe found Swanson camping out to Gudmandson's right, and Swanson fired a shot from a tough angle that found its way past the UW netminder's pads. Swanson's eighth of the year made the score 3-3.

Neither team managed to find the back of the net in the third period. Both squads had a power play opportunity in the final frame but failed to capitalize.

Lasch played the role of hero for the Huskies in overtime, as he collected the rebound off his own shot and slapped it past Gudmandson for a 4-3 final.

"I didn't control my rebound as well as I usually do on that play," Gudmandson said of the game-winner. "I tried to poke it away. It just ended up on [Lasch's] stick."

While Lasch's goal may have sent the Badgers back to Madison the losers of two straight, the consensus among the team is that they're not done playing yet.

"I still feel like we're going to get in," captain Davis Drewiske said of the NCAA tournament. "We'll just see what happens."

"We were so close this season from being a really, really good team," Connelly said. "I'm hoping the hockey gods are smiling down on us and will give us another opportunity."

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