They may not have put one into the win column, but there was a lot to like about the Badgers men's hockey team's opening weekend series against Northern Michigan. Wisconsin showed impressive resilience, battling back from two third period deficits to earn a pair of ties against the Wildcats, 2-2 on Friday and 3-3 on Saturday.
UW went unbeaten in a series only once last season and scored five or more goals just twice.
"We're just taking the positive that we didn't lose," freshman forward Luke Kunin said. "I think it's a step in the right direction. We're just going to go into next weekend and try to win those two."
Wisconsin came back from third period deficits of 2-1 and 3-0 on Friday and Saturday, respectively, and the power play was a key factor. The Badgers went 3-for-10 with the man advantage, including Kunin's game-tying goal on Saturday to cap the three-goal comeback.
"It was really fun to see this early in the season how poised and confident and disciplined the power play was," head coach Mike Eaves said. "They went out there and executed it very well."
Kunin's goal was the big moment, but the USNTDP product impressed, overall, in his collegiate debut. Eaves said he "sure doesn't play like a freshman," which he credited to Kunin's work ethic off the ice.
"The way he goes about his business is very mature," Eaves said. "He can be a difference maker. He has a unique and powerful shot and a shooter's mentality and a scorer's mentality. He brings a lot to our team."
Opening weekend also provided the first look at the Badgers' goaltending situation. Senior Adam Miller and freshman Matt Jurusik split time, with Miller getting the start in the opener and Jurusik in the finale. Miller turned away 30 of 32 shots, while Jurusik had a shaky start (to be expected of a freshman in his first career start), but rebounded and looked better as the game went on, finishing with 22 saves on 25 shots.
"In the first period, both were nervous," Eaves said. "As the games went on, both made excellent saves. They both got comfortable the more they played."
Up Next: Friday, Oct. 16, at No. 4 Boston College (6 p.m., CT); Saturday, Oct. 17, at No. 6 Boston University (6 p.m., CT)
Any bit of increased confidence is important for Wisconsin heading into next weekend's trip to Boston. The Badgers will face a stern early season test against a pair of top-10-ranked teams in Boston University and Boston College--teams they are a combined 0-3-1 against over the past two seasons.
"We're going where the fire is a little hotter," Eaves said. "The teams there have a little more firepower and we'll find out how we handle that. There will be a lot to learn on this trip."