Wisconsin fades, allows pair of late goals in season-opening loss

Posted-October 12th, 2012 10:51 pm

Green Bay, Wis. -- Cliché or not, the game of hockey is a 60 minute sport, and to give yourself the best chance to win you’re best off when you play each and every one of those minutes consistently.

For Wisconsin (0-1-0), it was over the final 20 minutes of the game against Northern Michigan (1-0-0) that the early momentum unraveled, a lead was erased and they were outplayed.

Controlling the puck, keeping momentum in their favor and pressing the Wildcats early and often, the Badgers came out aggressive and maintained control through the first period. While they were unable to get on the board, UW outshot NMU 10-6.

“I liked our energy early on,” assistant coach Bill Butters said. “We didn’t create a whole lot of scoring opportunities off the rushes we had, but we did move the puck well.”

The Wildcats had three different power-play opportunities through the first and early second period, but the Badgers went three-for-three on penalty kills. It’s known that Mark Zengerle (Rochester, N.Y.) can impact a game with his stick, but also showed he can without it as well, coming up with two great shot blocks to preserve the third power-play kill.

With 7:28 left in the second period, the Badgers struck first through a power play of their own.

Zengerle went to pass to a teammate backdoor, but had the puck interrupted by a NMU defender. Michael Mersch (Park Ridge, Ill.) was there to jump in and convert on UW’s first goal of the season. Having scored seven power-play goals as a sophomore for UW last season, Mersch wasted no time getting his first of this season.

The Badgers and Wildcats played out the rest of the second period much more evenly, as UW finished with just a 7-6 shots on goal advantage.

Just 18 seconds into the third period, the Wildcats found life, tying things up on a scramble in front of the Badgers’ net.

Matt Thurber brought the puck down the ice quickly and alone on the breakaway, got two shots on goalie Joel Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan) who came up with a couple great saves, but the puck finally found its way into the net during the scramble. Northern Michigan’s Reed Seckel was credited with the goal after slapping it in.

“It seemed like our bench went kind of dead,” Butters said. “It took us about 10 minutes before we recomposed ourselves after that.”

Wisconsin entered the third period having outshot Northern Michigan 17-13, but with the momentum and energy in their favor the Wildcats outshot the Badgers 8-3 in the final period and converted the go-ahead goal.

With 11:54 left in the game, Rumpel came up with a great diving save -- one of his 19 saves on the night -- on a good shot attempt from NMU, but the rebound winded up in the slot. With Rumpel lying on the ground, Matt Paape (Appleton, Wis.) was forced to react and quickly drew the hooking penalty to prevent the follow-up shot.

In their fourth power play of the night, Northern Michigan capitalized and found the net with 10:53 left, after centering a pass deflected off a skate and found the net. Cohen Adair was credited with the goal and the Wildcats took their first lead in a game all season.

Playing from behind and needing to come up with a goal in half a period to at tie the game, the Badgers struggled to find any sort of spark or momentum shift, as Northern Michigan goalie Jared Coreau came up with three crucial third-period saves to ice the win.

Wisconsin looks to bounce back and split the series with Northern Michigan tomorrow night as the two face off again in the Resch Center at 7 p.m. (CT).

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