All four freshman forwards that were in the lineup for the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team’s exhibition opener Sunday scored a goal.
That may have been only the second-most-important part of their initial game experience at the Kohl Center.
The Badgers rolled to an 8-2 victory over Victoria in front of an announced crowd of 4,569, and a stretch late in the second period gave Roman Ahcan, Brock Caufield, Mick Messner and Dominick Mersch some valuable minutes in penalty killing.
UW killed five minutes of power-play time over the last 6:27 of the middle frame, and the newcomers got thrown right into the mix.
The span included one minute of 5-on-3 time during which the Badgers allowed only one shot attempt, which went wide.
“It’s part of our game,” Mersch said. “Our job is to bring some energy, block shots, and the penalty kill is part of that. When we get out there, we try to pick up our teammates and kill it off.”
Ahcan and Sean Dhooghe each had three points, and Max Zimmer scored twice in the one-sided contest. UW outshot the Vikes, a British Columbia college team, 72-15 and launched 113 shot attempts to only 22 allowed.
At least at the start of the season, Badgers coach Tony Granato wants to get the freshmen involved in penalty killing to alleviate the workload of some of the players who will register plenty of ice time with power-play duties.
Overall, Granato said he was impressed with the freshmen.
“They played well,” he said. “They played hard. They played the way we wanted them to play. They played the way we expected them to play. They’re workers.”
Freshman wing Jack Gorniak was the only one of 25 players on the roster who didn’t skate Sunday. Granato said a paperwork mishap kept him out, but he didn’t express concern that the issue would linger closer to Friday’s season opener against No. 12 Boston College.
Fourteen skaters recorded at least one point, but there were a few forgettable moments in the first period that led the Badgers to cough up a 2-0 advantage.
Defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk turned the puck over in front of his own net on a breakout, leading to a Kenny Britton goal for the Vikes. And UW didn’t get back quick enough after the puck changed hands on an errant Ty Emberson centering pass in the offensive zone to set up Hayden Guilderson’s breakaway score.
Things didn’t stay close for long. Mersch scored in the first period and Messner, Ahcan and Linus Weissbach potted goals 1:42 apart early in the second to open up a 6-2 lead.
With just 15 shots against, it was tough to get a thorough evaluation of the Badgers’ goalies. Jack Berry, a junior who’s expected to start Friday’s opener, stopped five of the seven shots he faced.
Freshman Daniel Lebedeff stopped all six shots he faced in 27 minutes, and junior third-stringer Johan Blomquist made two saves on two shots.
“It was a relief to play in the Kohl Center,” said Lebedeff, who likely will alternate time with Berry early in the season. “I’ve been waiting for this for the whole summer when I was back home and this whole month when I’ve been here. I think it’s like a dream come true.”
Victoria 2 0 0 — 2
Wisconsin 3 3 2 — 8
First period: W — Kalynuk (Weissbach, Miller), 4:10 (pp); Zimmer (S. Dhooghe, Freytag), 7:35 (pp). V — Britton (Evans), 11:25; Guilderson (Matechuk, Hart), 12:54. W — Mersch (Ahcan, Caufield), 15:28. Penalties: Bench, V, 2:52; May, V, 4:27; Jennings, V, 5:54.
Second period: W — Messner (Freytag, Zirbel), 3:01; Ahcan (Peltonen), 3:42; Weissbach (S. Dhooghe, Baker), 4:43. Penalties: Bench, W, 13:33; Miller, W, 15:33; Zimmer, W, 16:37.
Third period: W — Caufield (Ahcan, Bunz), 16:27; Zimmer (S. Dhooghe, Kalynuk), 18:32. Penalty: Zirbel, W, 8:01.
Saves: V (Wear 22-15-x, Murphy x-4-23) 64; W (Berry 5-x-x, Lebedeff x-4-2, Blomquist x-x-2) 13. Power plays: V 0-for-4; W 2-for-3. Att. — 4,569.