Wisconsin punches ticket to Final Five

first_imgCenter Aaron Bendickson (right) scored three goals on the weekend, including two in a span of 12 seconds in Saturday\’s win.[/media-credit]Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves and his team knew ending Alaska Anchorage’s season in the WCHA tournament Saturday was going to be tough.Throughout almost two periods, it was.But a late second period surge with the man advantage helped the Badgers secure a victory, sending them to next weekend’s Final Five.When the Wisconsin power-play unit took the ice late in the second period, it did so mired in a 0-19 slump dating to last Sunday’s game at Minnesota.So instead of setting up in the offensive zone, sophomore Derek Stepan deked UAA’s Kane Lafranchise, found an opening and fired a quick shot glove-side past the UAA goaltender to put UW back in front.“The defenseman stepped up, and I knew the other defenseman had a pretty poor gap, so I decided to throw one on net and see what happens,” Stepan said in reference to the goal. “We were having a tough time getting it set up, so it was one of those things where I took what was given.”Justin Schultz extended the Badger lead just over one minute later on another power play. The freshman defenseman picked up a loose puck in front and found a way to get his shot through multiple screens and into the back of net to make the score 4-2, ending a second period where UAA gave UW all it could handle.At the 15:27 mark of the second period, UW goaltender Scott Gudmandson misplayed the puck and Curtis Leinweber took advantage, stuffing a backhander into the wide open net. The game was tied, and the momentum had swung in UAA’s favor, but after Gudmandson stood on his head to keep the game tied at two a piece, the two Seawolves penalties put control back into UW’s hands.“And our response was getting two power-play goals,” Eaves said. “The power play unit, which had been struggling, came out and got a couple of big goals, and settled us down and gave us our feet back under us again.”Senior tri-captain Blake Geoffrion opened the scoring at the 3:32 mark in the first period as he gathered the puck in the slot and snapped it to the top corner.Fellow senior Michael Davies would double the lead late in the first period, but the Seawolves were not about to go down without a fight.UW frantically killed off two full minutes of 5-on-3 action, but just seconds after the Badgers returned to full strength, Trevor Hunt fired a shot off Geoffrion and the puck fluttered past Gudmandson’s glove with less than one minute remaining in the first.The Badgers entered the locker room after the second with a two-goal lead thanks to their power play and the efforts of Gudmandson between the pipes.“Their goaltender was a difference-maker tonight, and their top guys made plays and scored,” UAA head coach Dave Shyiak said.Senior forward Aaron Bendickson scored two goals in a matter of seconds in the third period and Geoffrion added his second in the final minutes to give UW a decisive 7-2 series-clinching victory.The Badgers didn’t execute to the best of their abilities Friday night, but they found a way to come away with a win in game one despite some sloppiness offensively.A late first-period goal off a deflection from Davies broke the deadlock and Bendickson extended the UW lead with both teams skating 4-on-4 to begin the second period.At the 12:03 mark of the second, Geoffrion picked out a streaking Jake Gardiner while shorthanded, and the sophomore defenseman did the rest giving UW a 3-0 lead.With that goal, the Badgers were more productive down a man than they were with the man advantage. The UW power play went 0-for-8 Friday.“We know what we have to do. It’s all about execution and we have to capitalize,” Davies said in regard to the power-play effort. “We are fortunate enough to go scoreless on the power play and to come out with the win.”Freshman Craig Smith tallied a goal late in the second, but UAA forward Craig Parkinson spoiled the shutout, scoring with less than a minute remaining in the third period.Eaves was proud of the effort Gudmandson put forth, awarding him the game puck for his 27-save performance, and while he knows his team can be better, the UW head coach was just pleased to walk away from game one with a victory.“We’ll take a win anyway we can get it,” Eaves said. “But did we play our best? I think if you talk to our boys they’d say no.”With Saturday’s win, the Badgers have Sunday off as the week of preparation begins for Final Five action in St. Paul, while six other WCHA teams are forced to play a critical game three.That’s a reward the Badgers will gladly accept.“Those young teams have to come back and get ready to play,” Eaves said. “We get a day off tomorrow and we get to have a normal week and set us up for going back into St. Paul. We took care of business and now we’re going to be rewarded for it.”last_img read more