Holding a one-goal lead in a pivotal conference matchup, Wisconsin's third line, with time ticking down in the second period, delivered a dagger to Colorado College by converting on second chances, a trait that carried the Badgers to a key win Friday night.
Getting the friendly bounces early and often, No.16 Wisconsin scored five unanswered goals, including a goal by junior Aaron Bendickson with 18 seconds left in the second period, helping the Badgers run away from No.11 Colorado College with a 6-1 victory Friday night.
"The big goal was the third goal at the end of the second," said Eaves, still dressed with a glowing smile. "It was a different mentality that we had and we kept the pressure on the accelerator."
The victory for Wisconsin (13-9-3, 10-5-2 WCHA) moves to the Badgers one point behind idle Denver for first place in the WCHA and extends the Badgers conference winning streak to six games.
More importantly, the Badgers broke a six-game losing streak to Colorado College and now stand four points ahead of the third place Tigers (12-8-5, 8-7-2 WCHA) with Saturday's matchup being the final regular season meeting.
"We got the bounces tonight; any other night would have been a closer game," said junior Andy Bohmbach, who registered his first career two-goal game. "We can't come back tomorrow soft because we beat them by five goals. They're going to be fired up to play tomorrow and we know that."
Whatever fire Colorado College had in the first period, when defenseman Nate Prosser registered a power play goal to tie the score, was slowly doused as time wore on.
It started with senior Tom Gorowsky netting his eighth goal of the season at 2:06 in the second when Tiger goalie Richard Bachman couldn't corral a rebound, allowing the forward to fling the loose puck into the upper left corner of the net.
From that point, Colorado College seemed to stymie Wisconsin's offense, limiting the Badgers' prime scoring chances and killing off three UW power plays. But with 18 seconds left and on a deep shot from UW's Ben Grotting, Bachman was forced to vacate the crease to stop the rifle, but gave up a rebound that deflected into the center of the ice.
Waiting there was Bendickson, who threw the puck in the net from just outside the crease, doubling the Badgers' lead, giving Eaves a reason to smile and CC head coach Scott Owens a headache.
"That goal took a lot out of us," Owens said, as the Tigers fell into a tie for fourth in the conference. "We aren't a team that scores enough to go into a third period 3-1 this year. It went from bad to worse in the third period."
In all honesty, worse was too nice of an adjective to describe the third period for the Tigers.
Bohmbach cashed in a rebound from Aaron Bendickson at 2:37, ending Bachman's night at 20 saves and four goals allowed. Backup Drew O'Connell didn't fair much better, allowing goals to Michael Davies and one to Bohmbach, his second of the night, on a missile in the game's final minute.
It was a welcome relief for the Badgers, as Wisconsin blew a three-goal, third-period lead to four-win Northern Michigan two weeks prior. This time, UW made sure the foot never left the gas pedal.
"We learned from our mistakes," said junior John Mitchell, who scored his team-leading 13th goal of the season and UW's first goal off a CC turnover at 6:35 in the first. "We were ready for them in the third. We came out ready to work and played hard, played smart."
Although UW's top line of Bohmbach, Gorowsky and Blake Geoffrion registered three goals and two assists, it was Wisconsin's third line, consisting of Bendickson, Grotting and Mitchell, that were the stars of the show on Friday, registering two momentous goals and four assists.
"We kept it simple out there," Bendickson said. "We got pucks in, got pucks out and went to the net hard tonight."
With Wisconsin beginning a lengthy second-half home stand, where the Badgers play eight of its last 12 games at home, have two weeks off and have only two road trips to the state of Minnesota, Wisconsin quest for its first MacNaughton Cup in nine years started on the right foot.
"With two good teams going it at, it was nice to see our team be challenge, play through that and respond in a mature way," Eaves said. "We got secondary scoring, primary scoring and a lot of guys have multiple points tonight. If everybody contributes, we'll be tough to beat."