OMAHA, Neb. — A moment of adversity presented itself Friday night, and the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team survived it.
The 12th-ranked Badgers actually did better than that, getting a big save and a go-ahead goal after a major penalty and ejection to Dylan Holloway.
Daniel Lebedeff provided the stop, and Alex Turcotte put the Badgers ahead for good with a 4-on-4 score in UW’s 5-2 victory against No. 20 Omaha at Baxter Arena.
“That was a big momentum shift in the game,” Turcotte said. “The guys were pretty positive on the bench, just saying we’ve got to kill this off. We knew if we could make something happen out of it, it would go in our favor.”
Sophomore forward Roman Ahcan scored twice, his first multiple-goal game in 45 games for the Badgers.
But it was the critical five-minute stretch of the second period, with the game tied 1-1, that helped UW wash away the bad taste of a sweep at Penn State last week.
Already having served tripping and slashing penalties in the game’s opening 29 minutes, freshman center Holloway was ejected for making contact with the head of Omaha goaltender Isaiah Saville while skating through the crease 11 minutes into the second period.
That gave Omaha a five-minute power play, and Lebedeff had to dive to his left to stop a good look by Kevin Conley from the right circle 70 seconds into the advantage.
“When he shot it, it jumped and hit my left shoulder,” Lebedeff said. “When I got that save, I got to the flow of the game and it made the game easier, I think, for me.”
UW’s penalty killers got a two-minute reprieve when Conley, a Wausau native, was called for holding on the power play. During the ensuing 4-on-4 stretch, Turcotte scored on a drive to the net up the left wing to put UW ahead 2-1.
Saville stopped Turcotte’s initial shot but Turcotte followed up and chipped in a backhand shot on the rebound.
“That was the turning point of the game, for sure,” UW coach Tony Granato said. “You’re down five minutes in a tie game, the other team’s got all the momentum, you lose a player that’s playing great ... (it was important) to be able to suck it up and get a good start to the kill with one great save by Daniel.”
After killing the rest of Holloway’s major, the Badgers took a 3-1 lead on an Ahcan redirection with 2:53 remaining in the middle frame.
Ahcan got his stick on Josh Ess’ shot but the Badgers had to wait out a lengthy review that checked for goaltender interference.
“I feel like it was a good bounce-back game for us,” said Ahcan, who played in front of parents Tim and Michelle. “I think the best thing we did was stick to our game plan the full 60 minutes.”
It was a good rebound for Ahcan, too. He was ejected from last Thursday’s loss at Penn State for an illegal hit and watched the next day’s game from the seats after being suspended by the Big Ten Conference.
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Ahcan jumped into a tie for second on the team with four goals and into a share of the lead with 11 points.
“He’s going all out all the time, so it’s really nice to have him on our side,” Turcotte said.
The goals by Turcotte and Ahcan were the kinds that the Badgers had been seeking: efforts in front of the net to cash in on rebounds or make things difficult on the goaltender.
“That’s what we emphasized in practice all week, getting to the dirty areas,” Ahcan said. “And getting not tic-tac-toe goals but working hard in front of the net and getting in the goalie’s eyes. We followed through with our plan tonight, and it’s obviously working out for us so we should keep doing it.”
The Badgers improved to 4-13-1 in the opening game of regular-season road series since the start of 2017-18.
Ahcan and Sean Dhooghe scored empty-net goals in the final 90 seconds.
Scoring chances were limited in a physical first period, but UW took the lead with 2:36 left on Ty Pelton-Byce’s third goal of the season, his first point in five games.
Brandon Scanlin’s power-play one-timer from the top of the right circle got through Lebedeff’s pads 3:09 into the second period to make it 1-1. The equalizer for Omaha (4-2-1) came after the Badgers (5-4) were called for playing with too many men on an early substitution.
UW played 7:11 of the second period short-handed but came out of the frame with a two-goal lead thanks to Lebedeff, Turcotte and Ahcan.
Wisconsin 1 2 2 — 5
Omaha 0 1 1 — 2
First period: W — Pelton-Byce 3 (Baker, Lindmark), 17:24. Penalties: Stewart, O, 9:51; Messner, W, 13:13; Ward, O, 17:59; Holloway, W, 19:46.
Second period: O — Scanlin 2 (Brushett, Ward), 3:09 (pp). W — Turcotte 4 (Kalynuk, Inamoto), 13:15; Ahcan 3 (Ess, Vorlicky), 17:07. Penalties: Team, W, 2:45; Holloway, W, 6:19; Smallidge, O, 8:42; Prokop, O, 8:42; Baker, W, 8:42; Knoepke, O, 11:09; Holloway, W (minor, major, game misconduct), 11:09; Conley, O, 12:46; Abate, O, 17:16.
Third period: O — Sullivan 1 (Weiss, Primeau), 16:05. W — Ahcan 4 (Turcotte, Kalynuk), 18:32 (en); S. Dhooghe 2 (Messner), 18:55 (en). Penalties: Smallidge, O, 5:17; Inamoto, W, 8:30; Stewart, O, 11:42; Team, W, 13:30.
Saves: W (Lebedeff 5-11-11) 27; O (Saville 4-5-7) 16. Power plays: W 0-for-6; O 1-for-7. Att. — 5,605.