Wisconsin Caps Magical Run to Title
by Nathan Wells/CHN Reporter
ST. PAUL, Minn. There was a point late in the second period of Saturday’s WCHA Final Five championship game when Tyler Barnes had a breakaway on Colorado College goaltender Joe Howe. If he scored, Wisconsin would enter the second intermission with a 4-1 lead and likely put the game out of reach.
But this is the Badgers. Victory, or anything for that matter, has not come easy all year, so why start now?
Howe made the save and seconds later Alexander Krushelnyski found Rylan Schwartz on a breakaway the other way to turn a likely 4-1 lead into a 3-2 game with 28 seconds left in the second period.
“There was a good sense of positive feel because (down) one goal in the third period. We had a little momentum,” said Tigers head coach Scott Owens, who was looking for his school’s first Broadmoor Trophy. “We felt pretty good about it.”
It’s the type of goal that more battle-tested teams would have crumbled under. Colorado College had one of those earlier Saturday night when Barnes scored his 15th goal of the season with just 17 seconds left in the first period to put Wisconsin up 1-0. The Badgers took the last-minute momentum into the second where Sean Little doubled the lead 3:28 into it and CC spent the first 7 minutes trying to figure out how to beat the Wisconsin defense.
Goals by Tigers sophomore Charlie Taft and WCHA All-Tournament MVP Nic Kerdiles put the Badgers ahead by 2 before the events at the end of the period. However where Colorado College faded coming out of the first intermission, Wisconsin regrouped. They came out of the second intermission and held on to win the game 3-2 and the Broadmoor Trophy as the WCHA Tournament champions.
“It was an unfortunate sequence for us,” Barnes said. “We just came together and had everyone take a deep breath, calm down and just go back to our game.
The Badgers have been in this scenario throughout the season. Starting the year with a 1-7-2 record, including two losses against the Tigers, they’ve always had a chip on their shoulder. When things went wrong for Wisconsin in October and November they went wrong. Suspensions, coaching changes, injuries and having trouble scoring were just a few of the things that the team had to deal with.
“It was a learning experience for sure,” said Barnes, who had 4 goals in 3 Final Five games. “I don’t think I’ve ever gone through something like I had earlier in the year. Just getting some guys back and really keeping the level of intensity up.
“Eventually we were saying for a month or two that they were going to go. Now they’re going.”
One of those guys was Kerdiles, who missed the first ten games of the season due to a NCAA-enforced suspension. Some could say that the turnaround started once the freshman came back and although they’d be technically right, an emotional Kerdiles after the game made sure to mention that the resiliency, the change, happened as a team.
“We just couldn’t get a rhythm just because at practices lines were shifting all the time. We were just trying to figure things out,” he said. “I can’t give enough credit for that. I think it was just all of those things.”
With the Final Five victory – their last before moving to the Big Ten next year - Wisconsin heads to the NCAA Tournament on a 6 game winning streak. It’s a far cry from the last time they played the Tigers, but for getting an automatic bid is that much more rewarding for head coach Mike Eaves and the Badgers.
“It’s one of the most enjoyable journeys right now because of where we were,” he said. “It was tough. There is no two ways around it. It was tough coming to the rink and making tough decisions.
“These young men bought into it. They carried the flag when we weren’t there so they get a great deal of the credit.”