MADISON, Wis. — As far as debuts go, Jack Berry could not ask for much more in his first career start.
The freshman goalie stopped all 22 shots he faced and propelled the Wisconsin men’s hockey team (5-3-0, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten) to a 2-0 shutout against the Northern Michigan Wildcats (3-6-1, 1-4-1 WCHA) on Saturday night.
“I thought 60 minutes from start to finish we were pretty solid,” head coach Tony Granato said. “There might have been a little lapse there at the end of the first period when we weren’t on the attack, we weren’t on our toes, but for the most part I thought we got contributions from everybody.”
The Holly, Michigan native came on in relief in Friday night’s 5-2 loss to NMU and stopped all six shots he faced in a period and a half of play. Granato gave him the nod for his first career start following the game.
“I didn’t really sleep last night much,” Berry said. “The guys did great in front of me. They did an unreal job, so I got to give it to them.”
Berry’s shutout marked the first time a Badger goalie blanked the opposing team in his first career start since Bernd Brückler defeated Wayne State 5-0 on Oct. 20, 2001
The game was a defensive battle from the start as the game remained scoreless after the first period, with UW leading in shots on goal by a count of 8-6.
Berry continued his solid performance through the first two periods, controlling many of the shots he faced without surrendering many rebounds. When he did surrender a rebound, his teammates were there to back him up.
“He was square, with the exception of maybe one rebound in the third period, everything that came near the net he absorbed and kept tight and was able to cover up. Great performance,” Granato said.
The two teams continued to battle in a scoreless game until late in the second period when Luke Kunin scored his fifth goal of the year, on the power play, to give the Badgers a one-goal lead heading into the second intermission. The captain’s blast from the right circle was assisted by Jake Linhart and Cameron Hughes.
“I think whenever you score first it definitely gives your team a little more of a boost,” Kunin said. “Berry played great behind us. When a goalie is playing like that for you it makes it easy up front.”
The Cardinal and White’s fourth line, consisting of Aidan Cavallini, Jarod Zirbel and Matthew Freytag put in several good shifts throughout the game, drawing penalties and generating several scoring chances as well.
“They were outstanding,” Granato said. “They ran a forecheck, they drew the penalty that we ended up scoring on the power play late in the second. I mean a lot of positive energy they created throughout the game. Our bench was fired up for them and that’s nice to see.”
UW held on to their slim lead through most of the third period until Wildcat goalie Atte Tolvanen was part of a play that proved to be a crucial penalty. As he was skating off for an extra attacker, he back-tracked before getting to the bench and played the puck as the extra attacker jumped on the ice. That resulted in a too many men on the ice penalty for Northern Michigan.
The bench minor would prove costly for Northern Michigan as Cameron Hughes scored from a tough angle on the ensuing power play to give the Badgers a 2-0 lead with 1:05 to go in regulation. Assists went to Trent Frederic and Kunin on the play.
The Badgers were able to slam the door on the remaining 65 seconds, giving Berry his first career win and shutout.
Following the game, the U.S. national sled hockey team, coached by former UW head coach Jeff Sauer, played a 20-minute exhibition game to finish up their four-day training camp in Madison ahead of the World Sled Hockey Challenge beginning on Dec. 2.