NMU hockey: Wildcats routed by Wisconsin Badgers 5-2 in season opener

MADISON, Wis. – Northern Michigan University head coach Walt Kyle anticipated his Wildcats would be under siege at some point this weekend against the University of Wisconsin, which is ranked No. 3 in both major polls.

What Kyle didn’t anticipate was his Wildcats would be under siege all night long, no matter what the situation, and that it’d be his veterans folding under the pressure.

“We did not have a lot of our guys play very well in my opinion,” Kyle said. “We were nervous. When they started scoring … our upperclassmen have to have better composure than to let it go away like that.

“I was disappointed our upperclassmen took some penalties there when we were down and just put us behind.”

The Badgers scored five-on-five, on the power play, short handed and with an extra attacker on a delayed NMU penalty to rout the ‘Cats 5-2 in the regular season opener for both schools at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.

Wisconsin, picked by the coaches of the Big Ten to win the league’s inaugural regular season title, took a 3-0 lead in the first period via an even strength goal by Vancouver draft pick Joseph LaBate five minutes in; a shothanded goal by Buffalo Sabres pick Jake McCabe at 7:39; and a power play goal from L.A. Kings selection Michael Mersch with 2:01 to play before the second intermission.

Two of the three goals were assisted by Nic Kerdiles, the second-round Anaheim Ducks draft pick and 36th overall selection of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

“It was pretty sloppy, especially in the first period,” NMU senior forward Stephan Vigier said. “Anytime you go down a couple goals, it’s not good. We did some good things. Our power play was OK, our (penalty kill) wasn’t bad. They have a pretty talented team.”

The Wildcats had nine power play chances and converted on two of them for their only goals.

Senior captain and defenseman C.J. Ludwig pulled Northern within two goals at 17:41 of the second period on the Wildcats’ sixth advantage of the night and Vigier scored in the final two minutes of the game during the Wildcats’ ninth and final advantage.

Northern also gave up a shorthanded goal on its first power play of the evening after allowing 13 a year ago, then had a goal by Vigier waved off during the second power play because junior forward Ryan Daugherty interfered in the crease.

“There’s too much panic in our team right now,” Ludwig said. “We just have to settle it down and get back going.”

NMU redshirt freshman goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom gave up five goals in his first regular season collegiate start, but finished with 33 saves.

Meanwhile, Badgers junior netminder Landon Peterson only needed to make 18 saves to score his first win over the Wildcats in three tries.

“Petey got the game puck,” Badgers coach Mike Eaves said. “When you take look at it, there was only 20 shots, but he had to be good. Of those 20 shots, there will be a lot of A+ scoring chances for them.”

Friday was the Badgers’ first win in a season opener since 2007 with losses in 2011 in Madison and 2012 in Green Bay both coming against the Wildcats.

“Our goal for the weekend is to go 2-0, so we have one more to go to close it out,” said Badgers senior forward Mark Zengerle.

The Badgers split with Northern in 2011, but were swept a year ago in Green Bay after blowing third-period leads both nights.

Ludwig’s power play goal in the second that pulled NMU within two opened the door initially for an NMU comeback Friday, but Wisconsin’s Tyler Barnes scored just over a minute later during a delayed holding call on NMU junior defenseman Jake Baker to give the Badgers a 4-1 lead.

Another Ducks draft pick for the Badgers, Grant Besse, added an even strength goal 1:43 into the third period to put the Badgers up 5-1.

“They were much quicker than us,” Kyle said. “We were real content to play slow and we couldn’t.”

NOTES: Northern was called for seven penalties that garnered 14 minutes while Wisconsin was whistled nine times for 18 minutes. … Baker led NMU in penalty minutes with four. … Of the Wildcats’ seven penalties, six were committed by juniors or seniors, with junior alternate captain Luke Eibler and Ludwig each drawing a call. … The Badgers scored once on the power play on seven chances. … NMU and UW play again tonight at 9:07 p.m. at the Kohl Center in Madison. … The last time the Badgers swept Northern in a weekend series was Nov. 8-9, 1996 at Lakeview Arena in Marquette when both teams were members of the WCHA.