BRYAN FAUST/Herald photoBadger fans saw another series sweep in Madison this weekend, but this time it wasn’t Bucky doing the honors.The visiting Denver Pioneers took care of the top-ranked Wisconsin team sans Brian Elliott, arguably the nation’s best goaltender to this point in the season, snagging four league points with 1-0 and 4-2 victories.A lack of offense — not goaltending — did the Badgers in, much to the surprise of those that said freshman goalie Shane Connelly was not ready to play on such a big stage.The Badgers, who were shut out the night before, ended their goalless streak in less than a minute Saturday night, but they gave up three straight goals and the game to the Pioneers.”We were schooled,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said after the game. “I think what that gives us is an intrinsic feeling of what needs to be done to play at that level.”UW struck early Saturday night. The Badgers moved the puck around in the Pioneer zone in the first minute of play, and as forward Adam Burish took a pass from Pavelski, Denver netminder Peter Mannino went down to make a save. Burish slid the puck across the crease behind the sprawling Mannino and found Earl on the other side ready to finish the job just 52 seconds into the game.Denver answered back with a power-play goal later in the period. With Jack Skille in the penalty box, Gabe Gauthier rifled a shot from the point through traffic that hit nothing but the back of the net.Ryan Dingle, who sat out Friday’s match because of a game disqualification last Saturday, gave the Pioneers the lead five minutes later when he simply skated by Badger defenseman Jeff Likens and placed the puck in the top of the Badger net.In the second period, it looked like the Badgers would keep the game close, especially after they killed a five-on-three Denver power play to begin the period. But late in the frame, Geoff Paukovich scored his second goal of the series to put the Pioneers up 3-1.”Obviously [losing your goalie] affects your team,” Earl said. “But the big thing is we just got outplayed this weekend.”In the third, Earl cut the lead in half and gave Wisconsin a glimmer of hope when he one-timed a Pavelski pass by Mannino with less than seven minutes in regulation.But the comeback fire was extinguished when Dingle scored his second goal of the game to give the Pioneers a 4-2 lead that would hold up to the end. Dingle said after the game how much he wanted to contribute after sitting out on Friday.”I was telling the boys I’ve never been more nervous in my life than last night, not being able to have a hand in any of it,” Dingle said. “I just wanted to come in and help them out tonight. It feels good.”On Friday, Connelly rose to the occasion, stopping 22 shots on the night and letting in only one goal. Unfortunately for him, he got no offensive support in his debut.Pioneer goaltender Glenn Fisher would be the player of the game, however, stopping all 28 Wisconsin shots, including some that would have been goals were it not for a few miraculous saves.After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, Connelly’s luck ran out 4:22 into the second when Paukovich scored a goal off a J.D. Corbin pass. Corbin gathered the puck behind the Badger net and delivered a pass to Paukovich, who promptly shot the pass over Connelly’s left shoulder. Connelly had little chance to make a save with the play developing behind him.”It was a nice individual effort by Corbin,” Paukovich said after the game. “It was all him. I was just in the right place at the right time.”The Badgers threatened several times after that but to no avail. Late in the second frame, Fisher went down prematurely in the net, but he kicked his leg up and blocked Ross Carlson’s wrist shot to prevent the tie.”It was a good save, I’ll give him that,” Carlson said after the game. “He put his foot in the right spot at the right time. I thought it was going in. I got everything I could on it.”Once again, in the third period, Fisher defended a shot by Badger forward Joe Pavelski. As Pavelski took a shot off a rebound, Fisher managed to slide across the crease in time to make the save.”Give them credit,” Eaves said after the game. “They played a very good road game, and they got the goaltending that they needed.”The sweep cut Wisconsin’s big lead in the WCHA standings in half, with Minnesota sweeping as well. The Badgers now lead by just four points, changing the entire makeup of the conference race, heading into a weekend series with the Gophers.
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