Wisconsin Earns the Long and Short of It
Keeps NCAA Hopes Alive
by Nathan Wells/CHN Reporter
ST. PAUL, Minn. Scoring a shorthanded goal in hockey is like pulling the rug out from your opponent’s feet. Going from having a man advantage to down a goal is quite the turnaround and creates momentum that is tough to overcome.
Of course, scoring a shorthanded goal also means that your team took a penalty.
Making a habit of relying on shorthanded goals is not something Wisconsin wants to do, but it was helpful Thursday afternoon at the Xcel Center, where Wisconsin junior forward Jefferson Dahl scored a pair of and nearly had a third in the Badgers’ 7-2 win over Minnesota State. Those matched the pair of goals the Mavericks had on nine power-play chances.
“We definitely need to stay out of the box. I think it’s just moving our feet and having good body position,” said Dahl.
Minnesota State had an early chance to tie the game following an early goal by Tyler Barnes 1:03. That didn’t happen. Dahl skated down the ice and beat Mavericks goaltender Stephon Williams on a shot that he wasn’t sure there would be a hole.
Dahl’s was the second of three goals Wisconsin scored in the opening 8:11. Those set the tone for a game which, at times, had as many goals as hits.
“The games are going to be elevated physically in the playoffs. We knew that from the start and just kind of wanted to set the tone,” said Barnes, who had three points in Thursday’s win. “Especially playing on a smaller sheet, an NHL-sized sheet, there’s going to be more contact there. I felt we were ready for it.”
Sometimes the physical play was too much, as the Badgers took three straight penalties in the opening half of the second period. That included a five-minute charging major by John Ramage. However, Minnesota State was only able to cut the deficit by one during that stretch. Goals by Zach Palmquist and Eriah Hayes were offset by Dahl scoring his second shorthanded goal. The junior took advantage of a turnover by Palmquist, led a 3-on-1, and then finished the job he started.
“I think when you play a team like Wisconsin you always have to give them credit for playing great. They did a great job of taking advantage of a couple opportunities,” Mavericks head coach Mike Hastings said. "I’m more disappointed in how our team didn’t play for the entire 60 minutes.”
Dahl, who has scored four of his seven goals against Minnesota State, had multiple chances to get a hat trick. The junior hit a post on another shorthanded chance, and an apparent third goal was waved off for interfering with the goaltender. He also played well on both ends of the ice, helping Badgers goaltender Joel Rumpel to 38 saves.
“Can’t really put my finger on it," Dahl said. "The puck just seems to go in when I play these guys. I just try to work hard and throw pucks at the net.”
For as well as things went, it could've been even better with more discipline.
The Badgers know they won’t have seven goals every game. The Badgers are scoring much better than early in the season, when it was 53rd in the nation after 10 games. But scoring a pair of shorthanded goals to overcome nine penalties can’t happen consistently.
“It’s a flow and ebb type of thing and we’re riding a flow right now," Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said about the scoring roll.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin kept its NCAA hopes alive, but will probably need another win, against St. Cloud State in Friday's afternoon semifinal, to do it.
“It was a successful night for us tonight,” Barnes said. “We’re going to put (Thursday) in the back of our minds. We have to have short memories whether it’s a good thing or bad. It doesn’t carry over.”
The Badgers have been resilient all year. They didn’t play the prettiest game; even in a five-goal win. Regardless, for one night, Dahl was able to take any momentum Minnesota State had and lead an offensive explosion from the penalty kill.
“Every time I play against (Dahl), he plays hard. That was the case tonight,” stated Mavericks forward Matt Leitner about his opponent. “You just have to tip your cap.”