An Offensive Showcase

In its first match-up against a ranked team, Wisconsin hockey left no doubt. Three Badgers - defenseman Brendan Smith, forward Michael Davies and center Derek Stepan - were the catalyst in a 7-3 whipping of No.8 Michigan State in the College Hockey Showcase.

EAST LANSING, Mich. - University of Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves isn't one to let a good analogy go to waste.

Take Wisconsin's troubles consistently converting it's bevy of scoring opportunities to goals for instance. The quick-witted Eaves brought up the legendary Michael Jordan and how he never lost confidence when going through a lengthy scoring drought.

Although his team believes in the system, Eaves still wishes, "we had one guy that is (Michael Jordan)."

On Friday night, junior defenseman Brendan Smith did his best impersonation of ‘his Airness,' as he simply took over the game for the Badgers.

Smith's two first-period goals set the tempo for No.15 Wisconsin in the opening game of the College Hockey Showcase and his third-period assist finished off No.8 Michigan State, as the Spartans had no answer in a 7-3 drubbing in front of 5,199 fans at the Munn Ice Arena Friday.

"If we had to choose another captain, I'd choose (Smith)," said senior Michael Davies, who had two goals and an assist. "He leads by example out there on the ice."

Smith, the 27th overall pick in the 2007 NHL early-entry draft by the Detroit Red Wings, had been one of the many high-powered Wisconsin weapons that have been scratching their heads, wondering when the chances would start converting into tallies.

His answer started at 9 minutes, 23 seconds of the first, taking a feed from sophomore Derek Stepan (one goal, four assists) and chipping the puck past MSU goalie Drew Palmisano (21 saves) off a 2-on-1 rush.

If the first Smith goal didn't put the Spartans back on their heels, UW's first of three power play goals on the night did the trick, as Smith knocked the puck in front of the MSU net to double the lead and put UW (8-4-1) in firm control for the remainder of the game.

"That just deflated the whole crowd and helped us in the first period, because we didn't give our best effort," Smith said.

Added Eaves: "We still looked like we had some turkey in our bellies … The two goals were very nice to start the game."

If Smith's goal put a crack in the dam, Wisconsin's three goals in a four-minute stretch in the second period knocked the wall, and Palmisano, out. After the Spartans finally put a puck past UW goalie Brett Bennett (26 saves) at 11:13 in the second to cut the lead to one, senior center Aaron Bendickson out played and stole the puck defenseman Torey Krug behind the MSU and beating Palmisano between the legs.

It continued when Davies scored his first of two goals on the night, banging home a deflection from Stepan 62 seconds later. MSU head coach Rick Comley pulled Palmisano for senior Bobby Jarosz (8 saves), but he couldn't stop Stepan from banging home a rebound to push the lead to 5-2 at 17:15.

"Finally the lid came off tonight and they were able to put the puck in the net," Eaves said. "It was a nice reward for them for all the things they had been working on to finally pay off."

That wasn't to say the Spartans (9-4-2) didn't make things interesting on the Badgers, especially after junior Corey Tropp scored his team-leading 10th goal in the first 15 seconds of the third period to trim the lead to two and awakening the dormant crowd.

"The whole bench felt a little cringe because you could feel they were coming back," Smith said.

Just like he did in the beginning of the game, Smith had an answer. Covered by two Michigan State defenders, he slid a cross-ice pass to senior tri-captain Blake Geoffrion, who faked low and shot high over Jarosz at 11:42.

It extended the three-goal lead, it sent Spartans fans for the exits and it extended UW's unbeaten streak over Michigan State to five.

"Not many players can make that pass," said Stepan. "He's got that special ability to make that crisp pass."

UW has preached that history repeats itself, that good goal scorers will find its niche once again. With Smith and Davies, who finished the scoring at 17:45, representing the sixth and seventh Badgers to have scored two goals in a game this season, Wisconsin appears to be deciphering the mystery.

"We've had open nets everywhere and couldn't score, but we've been harping on it in practice," said Smith. "All we want to do is keep is going and capitalize on our opportunities. We create a lot of opportunities and the more we can finish, it's going to open things up."


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