NMU hockey: Eibler goes from hero to scapegoat in Wildcats loss to Wisconsin Badgers

MADISON, Wis. – For seven minutes Saturday, Northern Michigan University junior defenseman Luke Eibler was flying high off a game-tying goal.

By the final horn, he was offering himself up as the scapegoat in a 2-1 non-conference loss to the University of Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison.

“It felt great … then I blew the game for us,” Eibler said. “I made a bad read and I shouldn’t have pinched.

“It’s great to score, but when you let your team down, it’s kind of disappointing.”

Eibler, a transfer out of Northeastern University who sat out all of last year, scored his first goal since Feb.13, 2012 on Saturday to knot the game at 1-1 with 10:40 to play in regulation.

The No. 3-ranked Badgers, who beat NMU 5-2 on Friday in Madison to open the season, re-took the lead with 3:35 to play and held on for their first weekend sweep of Northern since 1996 in Marquette when both were members of the WCHA and the Wildcats were still playing at Lakeview Arena.

“We had a defenseman step up on a pinch there at the end when he never should have,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “The reality is (the Badgers) are a very, very good team. They’re going to be No. 1 or 2 in the country, a top-five team all year. We played them in their building in a tough environment on a bounce back game and I thought we played them tit for tat.”

Eibler tried to break up the Badgers’ game-winning rush by pinching inside in the neutral zone on UW senior wing Michael Mersch late in the third period, but it turned out to be the wrong read.

“Michael took that hit and took the defenseman out of the play and left the puck there,” Badgers freshman forward Grant Besse said. “That’s what created the two-on-one and ultimately created the goal.”

Besse held the puck on the advantage and banged his first shot off NMU sophomore goaltender’s Michael Doan’s right glove before finding the keeper’s left side open for the game-winning goal.

Doan came out of the net to cut off Besse, but it resulted in him being out of position for the eventual unlucky rebound.

“I read that he was going to shoot high glove, he shot high-glove and unfortunately the rebound just happened to land right back on his stick and I was so far out of the net I didn’t have any time to recover,” Doan said.

Doan made 27 saves in his first collegiate start Saturday over redshirt freshman Mathias Dahlstrom after the 6-foot-4, 214-pound native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario appeared only in relief last season on five occasions.

Wearing Dahlstrom’s mask midway through the first period because of a broken chin strap, Doan let Wisconsin sophomore forward Nic Kerdiles bounce a rocket off the skate of NMU senior defenseman and captain C.J. Ludwig and through the five hole to give the Badgers a 1-0 lead.

That’s all Doan – who got his own mask back in time for the third period – allowed until the Badgers scored the game-winning goal.

It was a stark contrast from Friday night when UW posted three first-period goals to jump on top of the Wildcats, who only could only pull within two goals for 1:17 late in the second period.

The Badgers also out-shot NMU 38-20 on Friday compared to a tighter 29-21 advantage on Saturday.

“(Friday) night I thought we were nervous, we were un-composed and you have to give Wisconsin some of the credit for that,” Kyle said. “They came and stormed us and put us under a lot of pressure. I thought (Saturday) we looked much more composed, I thought that we got stronger as the game went and obviously we were very much in the game.”

NOTES: NMU senior forward Stephan Vigier nearly tied the game at 2-2 with 33.9 seconds left, but his shot bounced off the cross bar and out of play. … NMU and UW combined for five penalties – Wildcats had three penalties – on Saturday after the two sides were whistled for a combined 16 penalties on Friday. No penalties were called in the third period Saturday. … NMU finished 0-2 on the power play with just two shots.