The most recent time Landon Peterson faced Alabama-Huntsville, the junior goaltender for the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team had an unusual experience.
He didn’t allow a goal during a record-setting triumph by the Badgers 12 months ago, but Peterson didn’t get credit for his first career shutout. That’s because he was lifted for the final 3 minutes, 52 seconds, so third-string walk-on Adam Miller could make his college debut.
Peterson didn’t get a shutout Saturday night, either, but his work was crucial as 14th-ranked UW emerged with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Chargers that gave it a sweep of the non-league series before an announced crowd of 9,775 at the Kohl Center.
Coupled with a 5-0 triumph in the series opener Friday, the Badgers ran their winning streak to six games and their home unbeaten streak to 10 (9-0-1).
Senior center Jefferson Dahl, junior left winger Joseph LaBate and senior right winger Tyler Barnes accounted for the goals while Peterson was credited with 18 stops on a night when a lack of sustained pressure made it difficult to stay mentally sharp.
“When he was asked to make saves, I thought he was good,” UW coach Mike Eaves said of Peterson.
It was the first start for Peterson since Nov. 29. Junior Joel Rumpel appears to be settling in as the No. 1 goaltending option for the Badgers, so Peterson was intent on making the loudest statement possible.
“I definitely stood in there and gave these guys a chance to win,” he said.
The Badgers, now 10-0 all-time vs. Huntsville, finished with a 45-20 edge in shots, but couldn’t pull away in part because they were 0-for-5 on the power play for the second straight night against one of the worst penalty-killing units in the nation (66.3 percent).
“It’s just chemistry,” Eaves said, referencing the absence of sophomore center Nic Kerdiles, who’s playing for Team USA in the World Junior Championships in Sweden.
“They did a great job,” Barnes said of the Chargers. “They pre-scouted us well. They were able to get blocks in key situations.”
One night after the Badgers (10-5-1 overall) were dominant from start to finish — including a 55-9 advantage in shots — it was reasonable to expect things would be much closer.
Huntsville (1-19) has been in a season-long pattern where it gets thumped the first night of a weekend series, then aggressively taps into an opponent’s lack of intensity to make things interesting. To wit, the Chargers are 1-6 in one-goal games and all have come on the second game of a series.
“They didn’t give up at all,” Barnes said.
Dahl got things started for UW at 3:47 of the first period. He hauled in a long feed from sophomore defenseman Kevin Schulze — it ticked off the skate of freshman left winger Grant Besse en route — tapped the brakes in the slot to shake free of a defender and buzzed a wrist shot past goaltender Carmine Guerriero (42 saves).
On the ensuing shift, LaBate rerouted a pass from Barnes near the right post at 4:36. The sequence began when senior center Mark Zengerle pounced on a turnover at the blue line and the quick transition caught the Chargers flat-footed.
The 49-second burst prompted Huntsville coach Mike Corbett to burn his only timeout. He told his players to relax.
“After that we stabilized,” Corbett said.
The Chargers got one back during a 5-on-3 power play in the second that came with some odd features.
UW was already shorthanded when a hustling Dahl made contact with Huntsville defenseman Frank Misuraca while chasing a loose puck, lost an edge and collided with Guerriero behind the cage. Dahl was assessed a penalty for interference, giving the Chargers a two-man advantage for 1:14.
“Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have been trying to go that hard because the goalie already had (possession),” Dahl said. “I was just trying to make a play.”
Eaves didn’t like the penalty at all.
“The referee didn’t need to make that call,” he said. “(Dahl) didn’t run into (Guerriero). He fell. How was he going to get out of the way?”
Left winger Chad Brears cashed in with a wrist shot from the left circle at 14:56 in part because senior center Keegan Meuer, who was defending on the penalty kill, was without a stick. He’d given his to Peterson, who lost his earlier in the sequence when he hit it on the post.
But Barnes got the winner with 2:02 left in the third, taking a great pass from junior defenseman Chase Drake and driving to the net to beat Guerriero, and the Badgers finished off their first unblemished month since 2000.
“We did a good job of staying with it,” Eaves said.
Alabama-Huntsville 0 1 1 — 2
Wisconsin 2 0 1 — 3
First period: W — Dahl 2 (Besse, Schulze), 3:47; LaBate 6 (Barnes, Zengerle), 4:36. Penalties: McKenna, AH, 6:27; Schools, AH, 15:57; White, AH, 15:57; Little, W, 15:57.
Second period: AH — Brears 4 (Clowes, Strukoff), 14:56 (pp). Penalties: Clowes, AH, 10:14; Little, W, 14:01; Dahl, W, 14:47; Schools, AH, 16:42.
Third period: W — Barnes 7 (Drake, Zengerle), 17:58. AH — Prince 3 (White, Salhany), 19:41. Penalties: Schools, AH, 6:15.
Saves: AH (Guerriero 12-19-11) 42; W (Peterson 5-6-7) 18.
Power plays: AH 1-for-2; W 0-for-5. Att. — 9,775.