Picking up the Captain

With Blake Geoffrion in Madison recovering from a concussion, No.3 Wisconsin made sure the senior tri-captain wouldn't deal with any headaches because of them. Three third-period goals help the Badgers distance themselves from Michigan Tech in a 5-2 victory Saturday.

HOUGHTON, Mich. - The benefits of not having senior tri-captain Blake Geoffrion in the locker room are small for third-ranked Wisconsin.

Head Coach Mike Eaves thought it was quieter insider the visitor's locker room at the McInnes Student Ice Arena. It was rumored that some of the players thought it smelled better, as well.

Geoffrion wasn't in the building, but the players that stepped up in his absence made sure the Badgers wouldn't slip up against the cellar-dwellers in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Wisconsin finally solved the mystery of Michigan Tech freshman goalie Kevin Genoe by scoring three third-period goals and got 20 saves from junior goalie Scott Gudmandson to upend the Huskies, 5-2, Friday night.

Although the MacNaughton Cup is, barring a late-season collapse, out of reach for Wisconsin, as No.1 Denver is five points ahead with three games remaining, the Badgers have always been focused on the big prize at the end.

Earning their 20th win of the season (the fifth time that benchmark has been reached in eight seasons under Eaves), Wisconsin (20-8-4, 15-7-4 WCHA) took a step toward accomplishing another one of its intermediate goals, securing home ice for the first round of the WCHA Playoffs.

"I think everybody stepped up tonight," said Eaves, who out shot Michigan Tech (5-25-1, 4-21-0). "I thought our team showed a lot of maturity tonight not pressing, not going outside the lines and trying to be a hero."

No heroes were necessary, especially when Wisconsin threw a season-high 63 shots on goal, only patience. Wisconsin was stuck at 2-2 entering the third period, but broke the game open with a pair of power-play tallies in the period's first three minutes.

Jordy Murray took over Geoffrion's spot on the top power play unit for the Badgers a delivered the game winner at 1:30, cutting to the net and getting the feed from sophomore Derek Stepan at the opportune time.

Eighty-five seconds later, the Badgers assumed full control, converting on a five-minute man advantage when junior Brendan Smith, one of many Hobey Baker candidates on Wisconsin, slipped a slap shot past Genoe (58 saves) at 2:55.

"A lot of guys stepped up and covered some ground for (Blake)," Eaves said.

Senior forward Andy Bohmbach, who was elevated from the fourth line to fill Geoffrion's spot, sealed the victory with a blast past Genoe at 17:38.

Senior forward Michael Davies registered three assists and now leads the Badgers with 43 points, sophomore forward Derek Stepan added two assists and senior tri-captain Ben Street tied his career high with his 13th goal to tie the game in the second period.

Even little-used junior Podge Turnbull chipped in. Playing his first game since November 7 and filling Geoffrion's place in the lineup, Turnbull erased a 1-0 deficit in the first period when he redirected a shot by Stepan in front of the net.

"Any time you lose a guy like Blake Geoffrion, you're going to feel that everywhere on the ice," said Turnbull, who added an assist in the third. "Everybody knew they had to do a little extra."

Gudmandson registered a solid performance, and bounced back from two peculiar goals in the first period. The first one, giving Tech the opening lead, deflected off a shin pad in front of the net and in and the second one, giving Tech a 2-1 lead, bounced off Gudmandson's helmet after he was undercut.

But when the third period started, the Badgers made their push, a result that will give them the chance to sweep the season series Saturday night.

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