The Badgers notched all three of their goals on the power play and were successful on four of five penalty kills en route to a 3-2 win over the Catamounts in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin now advances to face St. Cloud State on Saturday at 8 p.m., the sixth meeting between the two schools this season.
"The special teams have been pretty solid for us," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. "Tonight was an example."
It was UW's third and final power play goal that proved to be the game winner Friday at the Xcel Energy Center, and it came from the stick of Hobey Baker candidate Blake Geoffrion. The senior tri-captain took a behind-the-back pass from freshman defenseman Justin Schultz and fired a wrister past Vermont goalie Rob Madore for a 3-2 Badger lead.
Geoffrion's 26th goal of the season came with just 43.2 seconds remaining in the second period and gave Wisconsin the momentum heading into the third. Fellow Hobey Baker candidate Brendan Smith tallied the second assist on the goal as he kept the puck in the Badger zone and managed to find Schultz.
"I was in front of the net, so I got to see the whole thing," Geoffrion said. "Schultz made an unbelievable pass behind his back."
Wisconsin's third goal of the game capped a second period in which UW outshot Vermont 16-3. Earlier in the frame, senior forward Michael Davies evened things up at 2-2 with a power play goal 4:02 into the second. Davies snuck one past Madore from a tough angle, beating the Catamounts netminder over his right shoulder.
"I just got the puck and shot it," Davies said. "I wasn't even really looking at the net."
"I think we just took what was given and that was good for us," Smith said.
Prior to Davies' 19th goal of the season, Vermont scored a pair of unanswered goals in the opening period to head into the first intermission with a 2-1 advantage. Dan Lawson tallied his first goal of the season at 7:22 to knot things at 1-1, and Brian Roloff took advantage of a Badger penalty with a power play goal at 15:54 of the first.
The two Catamount goals came after Schultz put UW on the board 5:51 into the game as the freshman notched the first of three Badger power play goals. Wisconsin headed into the first intermission down 2-1 while getting outshot 14-12.
"We got the first goal, which is certainly what we wanted," Eaves said. "But we weren't playing how we wanted."
"I think the biggest thing is we were getting outworked and were losing a lot of battles along the wall," Geoffrion said. "We came back out in the second and fired on all cylinders."
Eaves' team responded in the second period, as Davies and Geoffrion helped Wisconsin make the most of two more power plays against a penalty kill unit that ranked 32nd in the nation (81.1 percent) heading into Friday's matchup.
"We knew what they were trying to do, and unfortunately we allowed them to get shots from places we were trying to avoid," Roloff said. "They were able to capitalize."
Wisconsin finished 3-for-6 on the power play, while Vermont was just 1-of-5 with the man-advantage. UW goaltender Scott Gudmandson stopped 28 Catamounts shots, while Madore made 39 saves in the losing effort.
With the win Friday, the Badgers set themselves up for a rematch with the St. Cloud State Huskies on Saturday. The Huskies shut Wisconsin down last Friday in the WCHA Final Five, topping UW 2-0.
Saturday's game has a bit more on the line: a trip to the Frozen Four in Detroit.
"We want a little redemption," Smith said.