The first month of the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team’s season concluded with a challenge that might have been unexpected by many.
St. Lawrence, winless in seven games and holding a lead for the first time this season on Saturday, negated a two-goal Badgers comeback with a late goal in the second period.
Trailing to start the final period, the fifth-ranked Badgers had a quick answer but not a sustained one, and the Saints engineered one of the biggest upsets of the young college hockey season.
Three minutes after UW’s Ryan Wagner tied the game early in the third period, Jacob Pritchard put St. Lawrence back in the lead for good.
The Saints’ 6-3 victory over the Badgers at the Kohl Center was one of those cases where an opportunistic, hungry team made a higher-ranked foe look bad.
St. Lawrence scored six times on just 13 shots on goal, and Badgers coach Tony Granato pulled starting goalie Jack Berry in the third period.
UW pumped 37 shots on the Saints net, but goalie Arthur Brey never let his team fall into a deficit.
“We are a team that is still learning how to deal with being a team respected nationally,” Granato said. “We’re going through the process of understand that to earn that and deserve that and to keep that, you have to be sharp every single night. Tonight, we weren’t.”
Berry, who blanked Northern Michigan in his first appearance of the season a week earlier, wasn’t nearly as sharp against the Saints. He stopped only seven of the 11 shots that got through to him in 43-plus minutes of playing time.
The sophomore exited after Pritchard scored his second goal of the game, on a power play, 3:33 into the final period to put St. Lawrence ahead 4-3.
“When we had a little momentum,” Granato said, “it seemed their next shot went in our net.”
Said Berry: “You’ve got to make those saves. … Tonight, that just didn’t happen.”
Kyle Hayton, the former St. Lawrence standout who became the Badgers’ No. 1 goalie this season after a graduate transfer, didn’t fare much better. Saints defenseman Ben Finkelstein beat him up high on the only shot he faced, giving St. Lawrence a 5-3 lead with 12:55 remaining.
Ryan Lough scored into an empty net late to seal the first victory for the Saints after an 0-7 start.
“This rivals childbirth,” Saints coach Mark Morris said. “This has been a stretch like I’ve never seen before, where all our efforts just seem to come up short.
“Tonight, we were able to score some timely goals and seemed to get stronger as the game went on.”
After UW (6-3) got a first-period goal by Cameron Hughes and a 5-on-3 goal by Wagner in the second to erase St. Lawrence’s 2-0 lead, the Saints surprised the Badgers in the final seconds of the middle frame.
Bo Hanson was credited with getting his stick on Philip Alftberg’s slap shot from the right point, sending the puck over Berry’s blocker with 12.2 seconds left.
Instead of a tie game where momentum was leaning toward the Badgers, UW trailed entering the third for only the second time in nine games.
UW needed only 32 seconds of the third period to make it 3-3. Wagner scored his second goal of the game and third of the series with a backhand flip on the power play.
The Badgers weren’t able to use that to their advantage, and the Saints scored on three of their four third-period shots.
“None of us had it tonight,” Wagner said. “We didn’t have the jump. None of us played a good game. If we want to be playing hockey in April, these games can’t happen for us.”
First period: SL — Cusinato 3 (Alftberg, Gluchowski), 5:39; Pritchard 2 (Sullivan), 7:56. W — Hughes 3 (Frederic, Wagner), 15:00. Penalties: Hughes, W, :30; Gicewicz, SL, 3:29.
Second period: W — Wagner 4 (Kalynuk, Malone), 15:40 (pp). SL — Hanson 2 (Alftberg, Purmal), 19:47. Penalties: Cusinato, SL, 13:46; Sullivan, SL, 15:13; Frederic, W, 15:13; Gluchowski, SL, 15:23; Wagner, W, 18:04; Pritchard, SL, 18:52.
Third period: W — Wagner 5 (Johnson, Kalynuk), :32 (pp). SL — Pritchard 3 (Sullivan, Finkelstein), 3:33 (pp); Finkelstein 2 (Corriveau, Pritchard), 7:05; Lough 1 (Purmal, Gicewicz), 18:32 (en). Penalties: Inamoto, W, 2:48; Inamoto, W, 19:08; Gleekel, SL, 19:08.
Saves: SL (Brey 7-16-11) 34; W (Berry 4-2-1, Hayton x-x-0) 7. Power plays: SL 1-for-3; W 2-for-4. Att. — 9,618.