Dazed and Blue

If the marketing board was having trouble marketing the Camp Randall Hockey Classic this February, consider the Badgers result on Saturday as a new poster image. No.15 Wisconsin manages to shoot 41 shots on a goal, but comes away frustrated with a 3-2 defeat against Michigan.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Usually playing each other just once a year, Wisconsin can respect what the University of Michigan is doing when it comes to trying to win hockey games.

After all, it's practically a mirror image of what the Badgers try to accomplish night in and night out.

"They are the same style we are – a run-and-gun team, chipping the puck in and out," forward Derek Stepan said. "It makes it a fun hockey game."

The fun ended with the result, as the high-tempo, seesaw game ended with Michigan cashing three Wisconsin mistakes into three goals in a 3-2 victory Saturday in front of 6,702 fans at the Yost Ice Arena.

Break down the film for No.15 Wisconsin (8-5-1) and the results will show that the game was decided on special teams, which credited Michigan (7-7-0) with its first two goals, and the Badgers playing a touch of feast of famine, either scoring in bunches and be successful (8-0 when they have four goals or more) or struggling to covert those chances into goals (0-5-1 when they score two goals or fewer).

"It's a weird game, hockey is," Stepan said.

With Wisconsin defensemen Jake Gardiner (head) and Ryan McDonagh (shoulder, wrist) battling injuries, UW coach Mike Eaves made the choice to carry an extra defenseman, forcing a redesign of three of UW's line.

The move to skate a forward down was magnified when Jordy Murray had to head to the locker room early, forcing a bigger shuffle and not many solid opportunities. The Badgers escaped the first period scoreless thanks to a couple key saves by junior goalie Scott Gudmandson (32 saves) and a kick save by John Ramage in the final two minutes that thwarted a 2-on-1 Michigan scoring chance.

The Badgers could only dodge the bullet for so long. Matt Rust scored his fifth goal of the season on UM's second power play early in the second, chipping the puck through a small gap in Gudmandson's legs to take the early advantage.

Wisconsin got to junior goalie Bryan Hogan, who entered the game with an average 89.7 save percentage, in the second. After winger Craig Smith's backhanded attempt was denied, Hogan try to poke check the rebound out of the way, only to see it land on the stick of Blake Geoffrion, who connected with his team-leading ninth of the year to tie the score.

"They are really good," said Michigan coach Red Berenson. "That may be the best team we've played this year when you combine the skill and experience."

The glowing statement, but it only got UW so far, as a special teams flub in the second proved to be the costly factor. Gudmandson, who was pummeled with 17 shots in the second period, couldn't make up for Jake Gardiner's power-play gaffe with less than two minutes in the period.

After a Gardiner turnover forced UW to take a face off in its own zone, Luke Glendening connected on the ensuing face off, winning the draw from senior tri-captain Ben Street and zipping the shot into the net, taking the edge off of UW.

"Goaltending is a matter of inches," Gudmandson said. "If I was a half inch further, the puck would be into the bleachers."

"From what I understand, it was a hell of a shot," Eaves said.

It became 3-1 with less than eight minutes to go but to UW's credit, the Badgers, playing with 10 forwards for the majority of the night, didn't give up, which was evident from Stepan's bang-bang goal 14 minutes into the final period on an assist from Davies. A 6-on-4 the final 42 seconds allowed the smattering of red jerseys in the stands to hold a glimmer of hope, but three shots in prime real estate couldn't get past Hogan, who finished with a career-high 39 saves.

"It's another one of those games I thought we did a lot of really good things and we didn't score as many," Eaves said. "We can hold our heads high. We worked our fannies off."

If the outdoor game against February 6 wasn't already a highlight on the Badgers' season schedule, the horn had barely finished sounding before UW was discussing its good fortunes, getting another chance at the maize and blue in a short 70 days.

"That will be exciting," said defenseman Brendan Smith. "It's already marked on our calendar beforehand and now probably with an exclamation point."

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