MADISON, Wis. – During finals week, many students learn the hard way that how you finish the semester is just as important as how you start it. The Wisconsin men's hockey team found that out firsthand on Saturday night, bouncing back from a sluggish start to power past Colorado College in overtime, 4-3, keeping its undefeated home record intact and extending its winning streak to four games in the process.
No one was more integral to Wisconsin's final push than Tyler Barnes (Eagan, Minn.), who netted the game-winning score by putting away a rebounding Brad Navin (Waupaca, Wis.) shot off the boards 1:41 into the extra frame.
The goal was eerily reminiscent of Barnes' highlight-reel tally against Penn State, when the senior took a pass and scored backhanded between his legs. This time it was a blind backhander behind his back from a sharp angle that squirted between CC goaltender Josh Thorimbert's legs and into the net.
The goal salvaged a back-and-forth game for the Badgers, who bounced back from an early 2-0 first-period deficit to take a 3-2 lead into the final frame before the Tigers netted the equalizer with 1:03 to go.
Archie Skalbeck tallied the goal for CC, collecting a rebound and beating Joel Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan) after the Tigers pulled their goalie.
But as they have done so many times this season, the Badgers rose to the occasion to secure a second-straight home sweep.
The Badgers found themselves in a hole almost immediately after the opening faceoff, as CC netted a goal 54 seconds into the contest off the stick of Badger Kevin Schulze. The Wisconsin defender was attempting to break up a backdoor pass from Jeff Collett, who was ultimately credited with the goal after a UW defensive-zone turnover.
The lead ballooned to 2-0 when Sam Rothstein picked up a rebound and pushed it past Joel Rumpel at the 8:17 mark.
But the slow start didn't faze the Badgers, as they emerged from the locker room a different team, scoring three goals in rapid succession to take a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish.
Navin broke the seal for Wisconsin, netting a goal on a play that he sparked by forcing a turnover behind the CC net. He shoveled the puck to Jefferson Dahl (Eau Claire, Wis.), who found Eddie Wittchow (Burnsville, Minn.). The puck then returned to Navin, who powered a backhand past Thorimbert to cut the lead to 2-1 at 2:01 of the second period.
Dahl returned to the scoring column less than three minutes later when he picked the puck up behind the CC net and skated unchallenged into the slot before beating Thorimbert to tie the score at 2-2. That goal came at 5:49. Freshman forward Jedd Soleway (Vernon, British Columbia) sparked the goal, springing Dahl loose by shielding off a pair of defenders in front of the Tiger net.
The Badgers secured their first lead of the night less than two minutes later, when Michael Mersch (Park Ridge, Ill.) took a tape-to-tape pass from Nic Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif.) and lit the lamp. It was the fifth goal in five games for the senior, who became the Big Ten goal-scoring leader this season with his 10th of the year. The tally finished off three-goal burst that took 5:28 for the Badgers.
That set up the frantic finish.
A day after special teams fueled a Wisconsin win, neither team was called for a penalty on Saturday night, marking the first time since Feb. 24, 1967, that the Badgers have gone without being whistled.
Rumpel picked up his sixth win of the season by stopping 26 of 29 shots, while Thorimbert took the loss after stopping 24 of 28 offerings.
The Badgers get a bye week before returning to the ice for a pair of weekend matchups against Alabama Huntsville on Dec. 27-28, at the Kohl Center.
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