Pushing the Pace

With the Kohl Center vibrating like a WCHA playoff or NCAA Tournament atmosphere with the nation's number-one and number-three teams squaring off, Wisconsin knew that it would be a good preparation for the journey ahead. Taking three points from No.1 Denver only makes the weekend that much better.

MADISON - Taking three points from No. 1 Denver will have any college hockey team feeling good about themselves for at least a week in the WCHA.

Taking three points from the top-ranked Pioneers when they are on top of their game as well? That is a whole different achievement.

In fact, if there was a consistent response to questions about what the series victory felt like for UW players it was this — the games were played at a playoff like intensity ... and yes, it is still January.

"The pace was unbelievable the whole weekend," Ben Street, member of the 2005-06 National Championship team said. "You could never really let up, if you had a bad shift they were going to make you pay for it. That is the way it is in playoffs. It felt a lot like a tournament game, where there is a lot on the line, it was a huge game for us. A big game for them as well. It was very similar to a playoff atmosphere."

UW struck first Saturday, getting on the scoreboard late in the first period when Street buried a drifting puck from the middle of the slot.

That lead lasted for less than seven minutes before Denver's Matt Donovan struck back early in the second period.

Of course, the lead flipped again when Craig Smith tallied his fourth of the season 23 seconds later.

In fact, the game was once again tied up at three with less than eight minutes remaining in the final period before Michael Davies tipped home the game-winner.

Like any good playoff hockey game, momentum swings came fast and often.

"It is just how you manage them," Street said of the momentum changes. "A team like that is pretty dynamic. They can transition well and hem you in your zone. It is about managing those swings and not getting uptight or too nervous."

Making the victory even more impressive for the Badgers was surviving despite an off-night in goal for junior Brett Bennett.

Seeing his first real action since the semester break, Bennett struggled to control rebounds and even picked up a penalty for tripping.

Still, the junior came up big when it counted, stopping a flurry of rushes in the last two minutes when Denver pulled their goaltender to take the man-advantage.

When Craig Smith cleared the puck with 25 seconds left in the game, Bennett actually lept for joy — and perhaps out of sheer relief.

"I thought Brett didn't have his best," UW head coach Mike Eaves said. "He seemed to fight the puck a little bit. The first goal it hit the heel of his glove and bounced out…but he battled, with less than a minute he made a couple of big saves and just showed his competiveness."

"It has been a long time since I actually played a meaningful game," Bennett added. "This type of atmosphere and what was on the line, it is definitely huge. I think it will make me better as a player and games like this make us better as a team."


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