After spending the week pushing the theme of setting the tempo of its series with Michigan early, the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team fell into a two-goal hole Saturday.
Not exactly what the Badgers were looking for.
Another rally made it a case of all’s well that ends well for 19th-ranked UW.
Badgers defenseman K’Andre Miller’s goal with 6:41 remaining was the difference in a 3-2 victory at the Kohl Center that extended UW’s home unbeaten streak over the Wolverines to eight games.
Miller scored after a give-and-go with center Ty Pelton-Byce high in the zone. Miller’s shot actually was a pass for Owen Lindmark that deflected off the skate of Michigan defenseman Keaton Pehrson and into the net behind goaltender Strauss Mann.
“We tried to run a play,” Miller said of his combination with Pelton-Byce. “Luckily, we got a good bounce and we won.”
In a meeting of the bottom two teams in the Big Ten Conference standings — groups needing results to go their way to get their seasons going in a better direction — the Badgers (7-7-1, 2-4-1-1 Big Ten) emerged. Barely.
They needed a few blocks on a late Michigan power play in the final five minutes and a desperation save from goaltender Daniel Lebedeff with less than two minutes remaining to hold on.
Lebedeff didn’t get enough of his pads on Nick Blankenburg’s shot from the right side and the puck trickled behind him. Michigan’s Jimmy Lambert couldn’t get much on an attempt to put it in, and Lebedeff reached back with his blocker to swat the puck off the goal line.
“That’s the way it’s going,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson, whose team is winless in Big Ten play (0-6-1, 4-9-2 overall). “That’s what it’s boiling down to right now with our team. It’s just a bounce or a break.”
Lebedeff (27 saves) then made a save on a Jake Slaker redirection in front of the net.
Minutes earlier, UW got two blocks from Tyler Inamoto and one from Josh Ess on Michigan’s man advantage. The Wolverines were 2-for-2 on the power play before the Badgers successfully killed Alex Turcotte’s slashing penalty in the final five minutes.
“The best part of the game for me was the desperation and the willingness to get those big blocks,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said.
For the second straight week, the Badgers caught a team in the middle of a slump. Michigan was 1-7-1 in its last nine games entering Saturday.
Minnesota was 1-5-2 in its previous eight games entering last week’s series in Minneapolis but collected a win and tie against the Badgers.
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The Badgers caught another break with Michigan’s top scorer, freshman Johnny Beecher, out of the lineup Saturday with an injury.
Those elements didn’t seem to matter in the first half of the game as Michigan gained a two-goal advantage with power-play goals by Cam York and Will Lockwood.
Michigan followed the Lockwood score with another good shift and nearly got what could have been a knockout blow, but Lebedeff made a quick save on Dakota Raabe in front of the net.
The Badgers’ newly formed line of Linus Weissbach, Dylan Holloway and Cole Caufield then quickly generated some energy and got UW on the board.
Michigan tried a fast change after clearing the zone, but the Badgers pushed back ahead. Weissbach fed Holloway, who fired a shot from the right circle that went past goaltender Strauss Mann (28 saves) and in off the left post.
“We had a pretty good shift,” Holloway said. “It came out of the zone but we caught them on a change. Linus made an unbelievable pass, and I was lucky enough to (get it to) go in.”
Captain Wyatt Kalynuk did all the work by himself late in the period to get the Badgers back to even at 2-2. He collected the puck in his own end of the ice and skated up the middle. He eluded Michigan stick checks on his way through the offensive zone and fired against his momentum, beating Mann to the glove side.
Kalynuk’s third goal of the season made it the second straight game in which the Badgers rallied from a two-goal deficit.
“I didn’t really get a good peek at the net,” Kalynuk said. “I just shot it.”
Like the game as a whole, it was enough for the Badgers.
Michigan 1 1 0 — 2
Wisconsin 0 2 1 — 3
First period: M — York 3 (Slaker, Blankenburg), 5:13 (pp). Penalties: Holloway, W, 4:12; Luce, M, 8:42.
Second period: M — Lockwood 4 (Blankenburg, Slaker), 7:14 (pp). W — Holloway 3 (Weissbach, C. Caufield), 11:29; Kalynuk 3 (Pelton-Byce), 18:05. Penalty: Raabe, M, 3:13.
Third period: W — Miller 6 (Pelton-Byce, Baker), 13:19. Penalties: Slaker, M, 6:11; Team, W, 6:11; Ess, W, 8:29; Becker, M, 8:29; Turcotte, W, 15:11.
Saves: M (Mann 10-12-6) 28; W (Lebedeff 7-5-15) 27. Power plays: M 2-for-3; W 0-for-2. Att. — 9,894.