MADISON, Wis. — There are several words to describe the changed attitude of the Wisconsin men’s hockey team this season and one of those could definitely be resilient.
The Badgers (7-5-1, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten) needed to be resilient tonight as they fought back from a 3-1 first period deficit, to earn themselves a 3-3 tie and shootout win against the Omaha Mavericks (7-5-3, 3-3-0-0 NCHC).
Junior forward Ryan Wagner opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the season after he skated out from behind the UNO net and roofed a shot over the shoulder of the Mavericks goaltender Evan Wininger. Assists went to Cameron Hughes and Corbin McGuire on the play.
Omaha would rattle off three unanswered goals, one shorthanded, to put the Badgers in a 3-1 hole following the opening period. The Mavericks outshot UW 15-12 in the period.
“I’d say it was a ‘wipe the slate clean’ kind of thing,” Wagner said. “Coach came in there and said we need to relax and gain our confidence back and just go out there and do what we do best and I think we did that.”
Things turned around for the Cardinal and White in the second period as they dominated the game offensively, outshooting UNO 35-14 in the second and third periods. Grant Besse pulled the Badgers to within one goal with four minutes to go in the middle frame as he deflected a point shot from Jake Linhart. Max Zimmer also got an assist on the play.
“The second goal by (Grant) Besse was great because when a goalie is playing that well, you have to find ways to get some screens in front of them,” head coach Tony Granato said. “Besse is known for making plays as opposed to being the guy in front of the net but he knew the importance of creating some traffic in front of the net.”
UW would enter the third period down 3-2 but it tied the game just 3:46 into the frame on Peter Tischke’s first goal of his career. The sophomore defenseman collected the puck off of a faceoff and fired it at the net with a screen in front, beating the Omaha goalie.
“The second and third periods we picked it up and got to playing our game,” Granato said. “We put them on their heels. We forced some mistakes.”
The Badgers would have several more quality chances in the third period but they could not find the tie-breaking goal for the remainder of regulation or in overtime, giving UW its first draw of the season.
Although the game goes in the record books officially as a tie, Wisconsin won the three-round shootout following the five-minute overtime period. Goals from Luke Kunin and Seamus Malone as well as two saves from Jack Berry gave UW the edge.
Wisconsin, which ranks third in the country with a +9.38 shots per game advantage over its opponents, outshot Omaha 50-30 for the game. That included 14 shots on six power-play chances that UW failed to convert on.
The 50 shots marked the most for the Badgers since peppering Arizona State with 56 shots on Oct. 30, 2015.
Freshman goalie Jack Berry made 27 saves on 30 shots in the contest.
“We’re a team that expects to win, we’re all winners in that locker room so anything less than a win doesn’t sit well with us. There were a lot of chances and those are going to start going in for us,” Kunin said.