Losing Prosperity

While a sweep would gave No.2 Wisconsin ample credit to its MacNaughton Cup title intentions, the Badgers' flat performance left much to be desired, as UW was shutout for the first time all season by No.9 Minnesota Duluth, 4-0, Saturday night.

DULUTH, Minn. – No rhythm. No offense.

That's the way the night went for the usually high-powered Wisconsin men's hockey team Saturday night at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, wasting a chance to sweep and settling for a series split after a 4-0 loss to No.9 Minnesota Duluth.

The Badgers' flow was disrupted right from the start when Minnesota Duluth scored two goals in just over three minutes of play.

UMD forward Justin Fontaine opened the scoring with a shot from over the right circle that got by a clearly surprised Brett Bennett at the 1:15 mark and Brady Lamb took advantage on the power play under two minutes later as he stepped up in the high slot and ripped one by Bennett's glove.

In a matter of minutes, the Badgers where in a deep hole and head coach Mike Eaves was forced to make a change.

"We were behind the eight ball right away and we had to make a goaltender change and that is certainly not the way we wanted to start," Eaves said.

Scott Gudmandson replaced Bennett between the pipes as the Badgers looked for a spark, but the struggles continued.

Fourth line center Matt Thurber, getting the nod in place of Sean Dolan, took a five-minute major penalty for charging late in the first period, allowing the Bulldogs to take control of play.

Midway through the second period, Mike Connolly stretched the UMD lead to three. After Jack Connolly attempted a wrap-around, the puck came loose across the crease and Mike Connolly was there to bury the loose puck.

UW now stared at a three-goal deficit, and the Badgers did all they could to get back in the game.

"There was a phase after they scored that third goal where I thought we had some flow and momentum but that was about it," Eaves said. "The rest of the time we seemed to be swimming upstream all night and part of that was because we kept going to the penalty box."

Unfortunately for the Badgers, the penalties would continue, forcing UW to play on their heels throughout the night.

"You can't take those penalties, especially against this team with their high percentage on the power play," tri-captain Ryan McDonagh said. "It hurts because we were playing all the same guys on the PK and that wore us down."

As play moved into the third period, the Wisconsin penalty killers were getting the majority of the ice time, as Blake Geoffrion and Jordy Murray took two quick penalties.

According to tri-captain Ben Street, the continuous play with a man down took away one of the Badgers' biggest strengths – their depth.

"Last night we rolled four lines and that really played to our advantage," Street said. "Tonight we had the same six guys killing penalties. Depth is one of our strengths and we didn't use that at all tonight."

Not only were the penalty killers tired, but a large portion of the team was left to sit and watch the action wind down from the bench.

"A lot of guys on the bench are just sitting there and it gets disheartening," Street said. "You think its your turn to go out there and then another penalty gets taken. Its tough for those guys."

And while the penalty killers were worn down, the UW power play struggled to create any offense in the later stages of the game.

For Street, it didn't seem like there was any sort of advantage when UW attempted to create offense on the power play.

"We just seemed disconnected out there," Street said. "Even on the power play we would dump the puck in and they had two guys back there before we had one it seemed like. It was frustrating."

The frustration continued to mount for UW as the Rob Bordson added another for goal UMD with 6:15 played in the third period.

That would be the fourth and final goal for the Bulldogs as the Badgers skated off the ice with a zero on the scoreboard for the first time all year.

The conclusion of this series with UMD marks the end of a three-week stretch that saw the Badgers play WCHA teams ranked in the top-10 each weekend. The Badgers get a break from conference play next weekend as Michigan comes to Madison for the Culver's Camp Randall Hockey Classic.

Eaves and the Badgers can look back on this daunting stretch and take away plenty of positives, but after tonight's shutout loss, they aren't exactly patting themselves on the back.

"If you take a look at the big picture we did a pretty decent job," Eaves said. "But it tastes bad right now because of the way we ended up losing tonight."

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