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March 27, 2010After a long evening of waiting, and a bit of a slow start, the top-seeded Wisconsin Badgers found a way to prevail over a difficult fourth-seeded Vermont Catamounts squad by a 3-2 margin to advance to tonight's West regional final against conference foe St. Cloud State ...
"It was a scenario I had never coached through before," said Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves, whose team had to wait out the end of the overtime game between St. Cloud and Northern Michigan, before they were able to take the ice.
"We tried to control the things that we could control, like making sure the players were fed."
Badger players ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drank protein shakes to keep their energy up while waiting to take the ice.
The first puck for the Wisconsin/Vermont game eventually dropped at 8:42 p.m., 42 minutes later than scheduled, and the Badgers were slow to respond out of the gate.
"Part of it was Vermont, part of it was the delay, part of it was nerves," said Eaves.
Wisconsin scored the game's first goal when freshman Justin Schultz scored his fifth goal of the season on the power play at 5:51 of the first period. But Vermont struck back with goals by Dan Lawson and Brian Roloff to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
"I think the biggest thing is we were getting out-worked and losing a lot of battles along the wall. We didn't have the support there we needed and we were losing a lot of battles," said Wisconsin senior forward Blake Geoffrion.
But the Badgers responded in the second period by outshooting Vermont by a total of 16 to 3, and netting power-play goals by Michael Davies and Blake Geoffrion to lead 3-2 after two periods.
"[Geoffrion] can release the puck really quick. When you think you have him covered in the slot area, especially on the power play, he can find ways to get shots off," said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon.
Geoffrion did just that on his power-play goal, by sliding in to the high slot and getting off a quick shot that beat Vermont goalie Rob Madore to his right side. That goal would eventually stand as the game-winner.
Vermont tried to equalize the game, and while they mounted a few chances on Wisconsin goalie Scott Gudmanson, they were not able to get anything past him. The Catamounts pulled Madore with just under two minutes left in the game, but were only able to put one shot on net.
"I thought we did a good job when they pulled their goaltender. We looked like we knew what we were doing, and that's a good thing going on further into the playoffs," said Eaves. "We've had practices that focus on that so we're ready for that type of situation."
Vermont's season came to a close with the loss, but the Catamounts acquitted themselves quite well by putting a scare into the top-seeded Badgers, after some people felt Vermont did not belong in the tournament, as one of the last teams to secure an at-large berth.
"We talked about a lot of adversity and ups and downs this season. It made us stronger at the end but unfortunately not strong enough tonight. We got beat by a very good team but I was pleased by our effort from start to finish," said Sneddon.
The Badgers will move on the regional final to take on a very familiar opponent in the St. Cloud State Huskies. It will be the sixth time that these two teams have met this season, with St. Cloud holding a 3-2 series lead, including a 2-0 victory over the Badgers last weekend in the WCHA Final Five.
Eaves is looking forward to the match-up: "It's going to be a great game. Both teams know each other inside and out. I think people that show up are going to see a whale of a college hockey game."
CollegeHockey247.com's Three Stars of the Game
1. Michael Davies, Wisconsin: After a sluggish third period, Davies scored a beauty of a goal when he picked the top left corner over the shoulder of Madore to tie the game and help give the Badgers a little spark.
2. Rob Madore, Vermont: The sophomore goalie couldn't quite recreate the magic that got Vermont to the Frozen Four last year, but he played extremely well, stopping 39 of 42 shots, and at least gave the Catamounts a chance to win the game late.
3. Ryan McDonagh, Wisconsin: McDonagh's presence didn't show up on the scoresheet, but he was a rock along the blue line all night for the Badgers as their most consistent defenseman.