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Revamped Lineup Pays Dividends for UW Hockey

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin Head Coach Mike Eaves was looking to take the offensive ability of his top line and spread it to the other lines of his team when he tweaked the Badgers (10-8-5, 7-5-5 WCHA) before Friday night’s matchup against Alaska Anchorage (3-15-5, 1-14-4 WCHA).

He, and the 10,154 in attendance inside the Kohl Center, liked what they saw, as No. 20 Wisconsin put together an offensive display and a dominating 5-2 win over Alaska Anchorage.

The Badgers outshot and outpaced the Seawolves from the opening faceoff, ending the first period with a 15-to-3 shots-on-goal advantage and a 2-1 lead. Wisconsin ended the night outshooting Alaska Anchorage 37-to-14.

Wisconsin scored five goals in a game for the third time on the season and the second time against Alaska Anchorage.

Four different Badgers scored on the night, including Mark Zengerle (Rochester, N.Y.) lighting the lamp for the first time since Oct. 27.

The Badgers also kickstarted a power-play offense that entered the night without a goal in seven games and with just two goals on their last 50 attempts, but ended the night 2-for-3 behind a pair of Michael Mersch (Park Ridge, Ill.) scores during the man advantage.

“We got the result we had hoped for by making some changes,” Eaves said. “We stimulated some offense and got some goals for both units. That was our sole reason for doing that. Our hope is that we can build on what we started tonight.”

The first game centering their new lines, Zengerle ended the night with two points and just one shy of 100 on his Badger career, while Derek Lee (North Vancouver, British Columbia) recorded two points on a pair of assists.

The impact of Wisconsin’s new lines was on display early, as Nic Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif.) worked with Lee and defenseman John Ramage (St. Louis, Mo.) to score the game’s first goal. Kerdiles’ initial shot deflected off the post, but the freshman forward collected his own rebound and stuffed it in to give Wisconsin the 1-0 lead at the 1:26 mark of the first period.

The Seawolves got on the board at the 6:59 mark of the period, as Blake Tatchell snuck the puck low and past the pad of Rumpel to tie the game at 1-1.

The new-look line of Kerdiles-Lee-Barnes would answer back at the 15:13 mark of the period, when Barnes recorded his fifth goal of the season to help the Badgers regain a 2-1 lead.

Mersch extended Wisconsin’s lead to 3-1 on a power play score at the 9:04 mark of the second period. The junior forward was in the right place at the right time, as he attacked the net backdoor, grabbed a rebound and found himself staring at a wide open net. Barnes and Zengerle were each credited with assists.

At the 15:22 mark of the period, Mersch returned the favor, feeding Zengerle backdoor on a perfectly placed pass, which allowed Zengerle to record his fourth goal of the season and gave UW a 4-1 lead.

“That pass (Mersch) gave me, I think my mom could’ve put that in,” Zengerle said. “That was a nice dish and I just had to tap it in pretty much.”

Mersch ripped in his second goal and power-play score of the night at the 5:01 mark of the third period, as he took a feed from Barnes and used a wrist-shot to score from the right faceoff dot and push Wisconsin’s lead to 5-1.

The goal marked Mersch’s 15th on the season, giving the Badgers their first game with more than one power-play goal this season.

Scott Allen and the Seawolves would cut into the Badgers’ lead at the 9:43 mark of the period, as Allen took a pass from Jordan Kwas and Tatchell and scored to make it 5-2 Wisconsin, but that finished off the scoring for the game.

With the win, Wisconsin extended its WCHA unbeaten streak to nine games (6-0-3), and earned its first conference home victory of the season.

Wisconsin and Alaska Anchorage return to the Kohl Center tomorrow night to finish out the weekend series. Opening faceoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. (CT). The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Wisconsin+.


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