Wisconsin wondered all offseason where the goals were going to come from, but after the opener it may be wondering simply where the shots are going to come from. The Badgers failed to generate much on offense and couldn’t stay out of the penalty box in a 1-0 loss to the Alaska Nanooks in the opening game of the Kendall Hockey Classic.
It marked the first season-opening shutout loss for Wisconsin in the modern era, and the first time since the 1931-32 season against Eau Claire. Wisconsin was outshot 31-14 on the night, showcasing youth and a need to generate offense a lot more quickly.
Tonight’s line chart showed just how young the Badgers are going to be this year:
Under an hour until season starts. Tonight’s lineups. pic.twitter.com/GY7yyhCscl
— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) October 11, 2014
Despite the scoreline and a severe lack of offensive chances, the good news is that surprise starting goaltender, Landon Peterson, reminded fans that he is more than capable of helping this team between the pipes.
Usual starter, Joel Rumpel, didn’t make his debut tonight thanks to three exams in the last 24 hours, putting the pressure on Peterson to perform and reminding us that these guys really are student-athletes.
Peterson stopped 30-of-31 shots, and outside of a bobbled glove save in the 2nd period, did plenty enough to help his team win this game. It wasn’t his fault the Badgers couldn’t find anything on the offensive end of the ice.
The first period was more about Wisconsin figuring themselves out, and they did a decent job of keeping it together in the period. UW skated to a 0-0 tie with the Nanooks, but did give up a 9-5 shot advantage to Alaska.
About the only thing that didn’t go well was a pair of matching minors for roughing to Wisconsin’s Morgan Zulinick and Alaska’s Nolan Youngmun as the horn sounded to end the period.
With Zulinick and Youngman both in the penalty box, UW’s penalty kill was tested early in the 2nd period as Joseph LaBate was given two minutes for tripping just 17 seconds in to the period. That meant a 4-on-3 situation to the advantage of Alaska, but UW stood up strong and didn’t face a shot on net during the penalty.
However, LaBate would frequent the penalty box near the end of the 2nd period and it would cost Wisconsin dearly.
With six minutes to play in the period, LaBate would be called for a hit from behind and put his team on the penalty kill. Just over a minute later, the Nanooks took advantage of their second power play of the game, with Colton Parayko blasting a slap shot from the left circle for a 1-0 lead at the 15:05 mark.
Assists went to Marcus Basara and Nolan Kaiser, both their first of the season.
The period could’ve ended with a 2-0 Alaska advantage had it not been for the referee losing track of the puck. After Peterson gloved a save it popped out of his glove and the Nanooks put the rebound home, only to have the whistle blow just before the puck dropped out of Peterson’s glove.
Instead the Badgers went in to the second intermission down just 1-0, but showed signs of struggling to get any offense going. UW was outshot by Alaska 9-4 in the middle stanza, and were down 22-9 through the second period.
The biggest loss of the period may not have been on the scoreboard though, as Wisconsin lost veteran defender Eddie Wittchow to a head injury in the period.
After going in to the locker room, things were more of the same for Wisconsin assistant captain Joseph LaBate — and that meant bad news for Wisconsin. Just 35 seconds in to the period and LaBate got his hattrick of penalties out of the way. Wisconsin did a better job than the previous penalty kill and kept the scoreline at 1-0 while not allowing a single shot on goal.
As much as the Badgers struggled for the first 55 minutes on the offensive end, there was no lack of trying in the final five minutes. The Badgers put it all-in on the Nanooks end, but just couldn’t get one past netminder Davis Jones, who ended the game with 14 saves and a shutout to start the season.
Wisconsin will face off with host Alaska-Anchorage to finish off the Kendall Hockey Classic tomorrow night.