A big night from Matthew Freytag just wasn’t enough for the Badgers, as visiting North Dakota (6-2-1, 1-1-0 NCHC) used a late power-play goal to snatch a 3-2 victory in the series opener between these bitter rivals.
“It was a good hockey game; I think we can play better tomorrow,” said UW head coach Tony Granato. “Two really good teams, and every inch of ice out there is a battle. You have to be prepared to play it like a playoff game and I thought that is the way most of the game was tonight.”
Freytag put the Badgers ahead with a wrister from the circle at the 6:59 mark of the first period, one of two goals on the day for the junior forward. However, in an indication of just how close this game was going to be, North Dakota answered back with Collin Adams beating UW netminder Kyle Hayton glove side.
It took just about eight more minutes for Freytag to put another one past fill-in goaltender Peter Thome and put the Badgers back in front.
“He’s (Freytag) a goal scorer, he can shoot the puck,” said Granato. “I thought their line with Baker, the energy he provides and the pressure that he puts on the other team on the forecheck creates space for him.
“When you can jump on pucks like Freytag did and those goals, I think that’s a tribute to his linemates and how hard they played to give him some space.”
Thome appeared to be headed for a nightmare night, but the first-time starter settled down from there.
Wisconsin outshot North Dakota 38-32 on the night, but it never found a way to keep a lead for very long.
After Freytag’s goal, Wisconsin’s lead held through intermission, but wouldn’t last long past that. Fighting Hawks forward Austin Poganski netted just his second goal of the season at 1:25 of the second period.
The two teams traded chances, but neither could find the back of the net against two stellar goaltending performances through the rest of the second period.
In a series that can get nasty, this game was relatively clean. Both teams only had a pair of power play opportunities on the night.
However, it was all that the Fighting Hawks needed. Midway through the third period the Badgers gave up the second power play of the night to North Dakota and the visitors took advantage.
Nick Jones tipped a shot in front of Hayton and got credited with a goal at the 11:04 mark of the third period.
Wisconsin poured on the offense, but Thome was up to the challenge the rest of the way. Not a one of the game-high 19 shots in the final period could find the back of the net.
But, the Badgers believe they left plenty to be desired on the offensive end on Friday night.
“I think he (Thome) made a couple of good saves, but as a team we need to take his eyes away and not let him see those pucks come through,” Freytag said. “As a team, we know we can do that better tomorrow.”
The Badgers will get a chance to get even on Saturday night at 7pm, with the game televised by Fox Sports Wisconsin.