Returning seven seniors and nine juniors, a defense that was the second-highest scoring unit in the country and out shooting the competition seven times, the Badgers were a team that was struggling to bury scoring opportunities, averaging under three goals a game in conference play.
The key word there is was.
Even though UW's offense still missed a fair amount of scoring opportunities, Wisconsin buried enough of its chances early, scoring three goals in the opening period to set the stage for a 5-1 blasting of Alaska Anchorage Friday at the Kohl Center.
"We still hit four posts during the course of the game, so there were some glimmers there, which is a good thing," said UW coach Mike Eaves, as UW owns a nine-game unbeaten streak against the Seawolves (8-0-1), including five-straight wins. "Once again, we got off to a great start."
Wisconsin (5-3-1, 3-3-1 WCHA) got goals from three of UW's four lines, including the first multi-goal game from senior Aaron Bendickson. Known more as an energy guy, Bendickson emerged from role player to goal scorer.
"I just know I can control what I can control, and that's one of the best things I have ever heard," Bendickson said. "I enjoy being out there every second I can."
The barrage started quickly after the opening face-off against Seawolves senior goalie Jon Olthuis, who entered the game giving up 3.26 goals per game and saving only 87.3 percent of his shots.
Picking up a loose puck on a bounce off the boards, freshman Craig Smith scored his first collegiate goal after he beat Olthuis with a backhanded attempt at 14 seconds.
Craig Smith continued his early season success at 12:50, feeding defenseman Cody Goloubef between the circles from behind the net and watching Goloubef fire a rocket over Olthuis left shoulder to push the lead to two.
In Smith's first seven games, he's registered one goal and seven assist, tied for the team lead.
"He played real well," Eaves said. "He's a young man that is used to getting points and scoring."
The Badgers' third tally showed that UW's bad puck luck could be changing. Off the skate of forward John Mitchell, the puck caromed into the general direction of Patrick Johnson, who quickly changed his course and whipped a backhanded pass between two defenders before falling to ice.
The pass was received by Bendickson and the senior skated to Olthuis' left and executed a backhand flip over the goalie's right shoulder, giving UW a commanding 3-0 lead at 18:53 in the first.
"It took some wind out of their sails," Eaves said.
UAA Coach Dave Shyiak was much blunter: "Plain and simple, we were terrible."
The offensive outburst was a welcome sight for UW junior goalie Brett Bennett. After admitting to putting to much pressure on himself in last Saturday's 5-2 loss to Minnesota, his first back-to-back series in nearly a year, Bennett was much more in his element in his fifth consecutive Friday start.
He stopped 19 shots, including a 3-on-1 rush at the end of the first, for his fourth straight series-opening victory.
"I just went out and played another game like a little kid," Bennett said. "It's fun. I just got back to basics and stopped pucks."
After scoring seven goals in Saturday's night win over then-second ranked Denver, the Seawolves (4-7-0, 2-5-0 WCHA) could only manage a rebound goal by Craig Parkinson at 6:54 in the third period.
By that time, Wisconsin was already enjoying a 5-0 advantage, grabbing a second period tally from senior Michael Davies and a short-handed goal by Bendickson, who deflected in a rebound off his right skate on an odd-man rush at 5:36 in the third.
"I think we set a world record for giving up odd-man rushes," Shyiak quipped.
Eaves chose a stronger word to describe his team's play – exasperated – signaling that Wisconsin can get better results moving forward.
"At times we were brilliant, and times we felt exasperated by the things that were going out on the ice," he said. "These guys aren't professionals. They don't make mistakes, and we have that vision for our young people."