MADISON, Wis. – A night after a listless performance sent the No. 13 Wisconsin men’s hockey team to its first home defeat and left head coach Mike Eaves thankful that his team had an opportunity for redemption in the series finale, the Badgers (11-6-1, 2-2-0-0 B1G) vindicated themselves with a 4-3 win over Alaska Anchorage (9-9-2, 5-7-2 WCHA) on Saturday at the Kohl Center.
Though two games were eerily similar through two periods, Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, Wis.) made sure the finish was different for Wisconsin when he netted the game-winning goal with 13:33 left in the contest.
The junior fired a centering pass from just above the goal line along the boards, and watched as the puck found the skate of a Seawolves’ player and room between UAA goaltender Chris Kamal’s legs to put the Badgers on top for good, 4-3.
The two games started in very similar ways, with the Seawolves jumping out to an early 1-0 lead. The Badgers would rebound, just as they did in the series-opener.
McCabe and Tyler Barnes (Eagan, Minn.) gave the Badgers momentum heading into the intermission with a pair of goals. McCabe got things started with 1:34 left in the period, weaving through the UAA defense before backhanding the puck home from just outside the crease.
Barnes matched him with a goal of his own just 72 seconds later, when his transition offering beat UAA goalie Kamal from the slot and sent the Badgers back to the locker room holding a 2-1 lead. The goal gave Barnes a tally in five consecutive contests.
But the second period tripped up the Badgers for the second time in two nights. With a 5-on-3 and a 2-1 lead, UW looked to be in prime position to add some cushion to its advantage. Instead, momentum swung UAA’s way after a UW misplay at the offensive blue line led to a shorthanded Seawolves’ goal as Matt Bailey evaded a sliding Badger defenseman and finished past UW goalie Joel Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan).
Bailey struck again at the 12:49 mark, giving Alaska Anchorage a 3-2 lead and bringing to mind a similar second period on Friday which saw the Seawolves capture a 3-1 advantage en route to a 3-2 win.
The difference between the two games came in Wisconsin’s finish.
Sophomore defenseman Eddie Wittchow (Burnsville, Minn.) picked an opportune time for his first goal as a Badger, tying the score with 6:49 left in the second stanza. UW gained possession behind the Anchorage net and slid the puck to Wittchow to set up the finish from the slot on his own rebound.
The score remained knotted at 3-3 for the next 13:16 before McCabe gave the Badgers the lead for good with his second goal of the night.
A night after struggling to solve Kamal, Wisconsin managed to light the lamp four times despite being outshot by UAA, 29-24. Kamal finished the night with 20 saves, while Rumpel saved 26 of UAA’s 29 attempts.
Both teams were ice-cold on the power play, with UW getting shut out in six chances while blanking the Seawolves on each of their four opportunities.
Saturday’s contest represents the end of Wisconsin’s non-conference season, as the Badgers will now enter the meat of their Big Ten schedule when they face Michigan next Friday at the Kohl Center. The game is set for 8 p.m. and will be televised on BTN.