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Penalty killers help fuel win

first_imgZhao Lim/The Badger HeraldLast week, Wisconsin men’s hockey head coach Mike Eaves admitted the rough patch his penalty kill unit recently hit. Two games later, it appears the shorthanded ship might be righted.After a less-than-stellar performance Friday night against Minnesota State-Mankato, the Badgers looked dominant on the penalty kill in game two, holding the Mavericks to an 0-for-5 performance on the power play. MSU managed only six total shots on goal on its five man-advantages.Wisconsin sophomore assistant captain Craig Smith said there was one main adjustment the Badgers made.“We just wanted to make sure there was communication. Friday night, we had a couple guys running around – including myself – we didn’t really feel it out as well as we thought we had it,” he said. “We came back, we took video and made sure there was a lot of communication on the ice, made sure we had our guys covered.”The Mavericks were hard-pressed to gain any rhythm on their first two power plays Saturday night, as the Badgers were able to easily clear the puck and disrupt MSU with an aggressive forecheck.It was a stark contrast to Friday, where MSU looked very dangerous with the man advantage.“We were somewhat scrambling last night with our penalty killing. We weren’t as concise as we wanted to be last night,” Eaves said. “Coach Butters did a nice job, along with the penalty killers. It was a great meeting, the players were talking, they were asking questions, they got up on the board and what here and this there. They were part of the process. I think going through that helped us be more concise and detailed in what we did tonight.”The work UW did on the penalty kill looked eerily similar to last season’s unit, which at times outshot its opponents while they had the man advantage.But for Eaves, the important thing was the win.“We score one goal and they don’t get any in the specialty teams, and that’s the difference in the game, perhaps.”Gudmandson still going strongAfter holding the Mavericks to just one goal Saturday night, Wisconsin goaltender Scott Gudmandson extended his own streak of allowing two or fewer goals in a game to 12 contests.The last time Gudmandson allowed more than two goals was a 6-5 loss to the University of Minnesota-Duluth in November, where he was pulled during the game.The senior came up with big stops in both the 3-2 win Friday and 2-1 win Saturday, making 71 saves on the weekend.It wasn’t just the quantity of stops that was impressive, though, as Gudmandson made some highlight-reel saves Saturday. On a bouncing puck near the end of the game, he was able to make a key stop to preserve the win. Earlier in the game, he flashed a quick glove in snagging a shot over his shoulder as he was falling forward.“I don’t know if I could really rank the saves, but I’d say it’s probably up there,” Gudmandson said. “I think that save and the backdoor one in the second period were my two best.”And while the Badgers knew they would be leaning on Gudmandson more this season than last, the Sherwood Park, Alberta native has managed to elevate his play as the season has worn on.“Yeah, he did. He made some huge saves tonight,” Smith said. “It was getting late in the game there, they were making some pretty good rushes on us, jamming the net hard. He stood his ground well and made some huge saves for us. And we’re happy to have it.”The streak has contributed to Gudmandson leading the WCHA in both goals-against average and save percentage. His 1.76 GAA and .935 save percentage are also second and third in the nation, respectively.“Well, Goody’s been playing well for quite a period of time,” Eaves said. “And if you want to talk about the things that he’s doing well, he’s stopping the puck well, the first shot. He’s controlling most of his rebounds. His puckhandling has been the best it’s ever been, in terms of the actual passing. The actual reading up ice and taking what’s given – like a defenseman, he’s been almost like a third defenseman at times. So when you put all those things together, you’re getting a pretty complete package.”The biggest thing, though, might be how strong Gudmandson is mentally.“The bonus that he has going now is his confidence level,” Eaves continued. “For a goaltender, that’s as important as his glove hand. If that’s working for you, then it gives you a chance to be a really good goaltender.”last_img

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