Despite earning a victory in the series opener Wisconsin couldn't extend a pair of key streaks as they split the weekend road trip with Minnesota State. For whatever reason the trip to Mankato continues to be a house of horrors of sorts for the Badgers as they benefited from and were on the losing end of shutouts in the split series.
Friday saw Wisconsin extend their consecutive wins streak to 3 straight thanks to a 4-0 blanking of Minnesota State. It nearly wasn't a shutout, but some good officiating saw a Mavericks goal called off for illegal use of the skate.
Wisconsin opened up the scoring at the 11:09 mark of the 1st period on a goal by Mark Zengerle (9). That goal extended his consecutive games with a point streak to 20, just one behind Head Coach Mike Eaves' record. Assisting on the goal were Jake McCabe and Joseph LaBate (10th assist).
With just over a minute left in the 1st period the Badgers would double their lead on another even strength goal, this time from Jefferson Dahl, only his 4th of the season. Grabbing assists on the goal were the pair of brothers, Sean and Ryan Little. Wisconsin would go into the 1st intermission up 2-0 and feeling pretty confident. Especially since they made 2 of their 9 shots count for goals.
The 2nd period Wisconsin picked right up where it left off, notching a 3rd goal just 1:47 into the period thanks to another even strength goal by Matt Paape (4). Derek Lee and Michael Mersch (10th assist) were credited with the assists on that goal. For the rest of the period Wisconsin would work on a ton of possession and stifled most of the Mavericks attacks rather easily. However, the Badgers couldn't capitalize on a few Mavericks penalties in the period, leaving the power play lines a bit frustrated.
That frustration wouldn't last though as the Badgers would totally salt the game away, going up 4-0 on a Power Play goal by Michael Mersch (8) at the 3:44 mark of the 3rd period. Mersch had 2 points on the night, bringing his season total to 18 points.
With the 4-0 drubbing Wisconsin earned a pair of firsts in the game. It was the 1st road win for the Badgers this season, it's first shutout win of the year, and it was also goalie Joel Rumpel's first career shutout as a Badger. He stopped 36 Mavericks shots in the victory.
Saturday the house of horrors that is the Verizon Wireless center reared it's ugly head for Wisconsin as they were on the losing end of a shutout for the 1st time this season. As a result Mark Zengerle's consecutive games with a point streak came to an end, just one away from tying the record. It also kept Wisconsin win-less in games where the opposing team scored first, something this team clearly needs to find a way back from if they want to host a home playoff game later this season.
The one area Wisconsin was supposed to have an advantage in, the Power Play, is what deserted them Saturday night in the loss. The Mavericks opened up their scoring account on a Power Play goal by Eli Zuck at the 12:02 mark in the 1st period. Shortly after that Wisconsin would be on the penalty kill once again and the usually stingy unit was scored upon once again, going down 2-0 on a second Mavericks Power Play goal, this one by Eriah Hayes.
Bucky had a golden opportunity to get right back in the game slip through it's fingers as they wasted two overlapping Mavericks penalties near the end of the 1st period. Getting nothing from either one.
Minnesota State would finish the Badgers off on an empty net goal at the 19:30 mark of the 3rd period, with credit for the goal going to Joe Schiller.
It must be said that Mavericks netminder Phil Cook did an amazing job, stoning all 32 Badgers shots on net in route to the victory. Wisconsin started Joel Rumpel for the 2nd straight night, stopping 29 of 31 Mavericks shots in the loss.
Amazingly with the series split the Badgers were able to move into a tie for 9th place with Bemidji State on 12 points, 5 points clear of our next opponent, Alaska Anchorage, who's on 7 points and tied with Minnesota State for 11th and last in the conference. It also means Wisconsin is just 3 points behind St. Cloud State for 8th place as it looks to climb the ladder of the WCHA here in the 2nd half.
It will be a return to the home ice of the Kohl Center for next weekends series against the Seawolves. It may actually be the most important one for Wisconsin in this half especially if they want to reach their goal of home ice for the playoffs. Both games are set for 7pm starts.