Badgers men’s hockey: Newly promoted top line keys Wisconsin’s win over Mercyhurst
For all the quality play that Seamus Malone’s line exhibited in two games against Mercyhurst, there might have been some injustice in that the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey junior’s two goals were of the excuse-me variety.
Malone’s second-period goal Sunday, helped into the net by an opposing forward, gave the Badgers the lead for good in a 4-2 victory over the Lakers at the Kohl Center.
A night earlier, Malone scored from below the goal line when he bounced the puck in off the goaltender.
When you end a goal drought, however, there’s no sense in quibbling about the particulars.
“It’s funny that those are the ones that go in,” said Malone, who hadn’t scored in seven games entering the series. “We’ll take them.”
Malone added assists on third-period goals by Will Johnson and defenseman Jake Linhart after his grouping with Johnson and Cameron Hughes was elevated to the top of the line chart on Sunday.
The Badgers broke up the previous first line of Ryan Wagner, Trent Frederic and Sean Dhooghe in the wake of a surprising 3-2 loss to Mercyhurst on Saturday. Those three players were all minus-3 in the defeat.
UW coach Tony Granato singled out the combination of Malone, Hughes and Johnson for their work Saturday and lauded how much offense they generated on Sunday.
“They were huge in the win tonight, for sure,” Granato said.
Malone put the Badgers ahead 2-1 late in the second period despite Lakers goaltender Brandon Wildung (41 saves) stopping his original shot from the right side. Mercyhurst forward James Anderson crashed into the goaltender and sent the loose puck into the net.
“He deserved every bounce he got because he worked,” Granato said. “I thought he was outstanding. His compete level was great. The game of hockey is fair. If you work hard enough, you’ll get breaks.”
The Badgers (9-6-2), who won for the first time in eight games this season when trailing at any point, weren’t able to shake free from the determined Lakers (5-5-2) until a frantic sequence midway through the third period.
Johnson gave UW a 3-1 lead on a pass from Hughes, but Anderson scored his second goal of the weekend for Mercyhurst less than a minute later.
UW rebounded on the next shift, with Linhart firing home a slap shot from the top of the zone while Hughes disrupted Wildung in front of the net.
There was question on whether Hughes was guilty of interference on the goaltender because he made contact with Wildung’s catching glove. The referees, however, ruled after using video replay that the contact came outside of the crease.
“I think if I was on the Wisconsin side, I would agree with that,” Lakers coach Rick Gotkin said. “Being on the Mercyhurst side ... it was one of those things. From just seeing the replay, I thought the goal might be coming back, but that’s how that goes.”
The Badgers outshot Mercyhurst by 12 in each of the first two periods. In the first, they gave up the game’s first goal, to Nathan Bryer after a failed zone clearance.
The second period belonged to UW, however, starting with Dhooghe’s power-play goal seven seconds after Mercyhurst was called for playing with too many men.
“I think the biggest thing it did was just give us a bit of a momentum swing,” Dhooghe said. “We were talking all game of getting bodies and pucks to the net, so when one goes in the way we’ve been trying to get it to go all weekend, I think it’s a good motivator for everyone on the bench.”
Playing for the first time since being pulled from an Oct. 28 home loss to St. Lawrence, Badgers goaltender Jack Berry made 14 of his 24 saves in the third period.
With UW holding a 2-1 lead, Berry had to be sharp five minutes into the third when the Lakers had a 3-on-1 break. Chris Makowski dropped the puck for a shot by Michael Verboom, but Berry stopped it while sliding from right to left.
Berry’s second victory in three outings brought confidence, he said.
“Obviously, the last performance wasn’t what I wanted,” he said. “But tonight, I thought I kept rebounds outside. The guys definitely did a great job, so I owe a lot to them, too.”
The Badgers couldn’t erase Saturday’s loss and the damage it could cause to their hopes for an NCAA tournament spot, but they turned the page on Sunday.
“We’ve seen this a lot this year — coming off a bad loss, we have responded in the past,” Malone said. “But we have to get to that level where we don’t need a response like that.”
Mercyhurst 1 0 1 — 2
Wisconsin 0 2 2 — 4
First period: M — Bryer 2 (Makowski, Anderson), 16:23. Penalties: Piacentini, M, 11:20; Wagner, W, 13:08.
Second period: W — S. Dhooghe 2 (Weissbach, Wagner), 1:31 (pp); Malone 6 (Baker, Johnson), 18:34. Penalties: Bench, M, 1:24; Linhart, W, 9:42.
Third period: W — Johnson 5 (Hughes, Malone), 8:28. M — Anderson 2 (Verboom), 9:20. W — Linhart 1 (Malone), 9:44. Penalty: Charbonneau, M, 13:43.
Saves: M (Wildung 16-17-8) 41; W (Berry 3-7-14) 24. Power plays: M 0-for-2; W 1-for-3. Att. — 9,067.