Complete performance pushes Badgers past Chargers

MADISON, Wis. — The No. 14 Wisconsin men’s hockey team showed few signs of rust in its first game back from the holiday bye week, surging past Alabama Huntsville, 5-0, on Friday night at the Kohl Center.

The win pushed Wisconsin’s (9-5-1, 2-2-0-0 B1G) home record to 8-0-1, which matches the 2003-04 squad for the best Kohl Center record to start the season.

The Badgers set the tone for the game with a dominating display in a first period, thanks to an equal-opportunity offense and stifling defense. Wisconsin held UAH (1-18-0, 1-11-0 WCHA) without a shot on goal while tallying a pair of goals from Keegan Meuer (Madison, Wis.) and Morgan Zulinick (Kamloops, British Columbia).

Meuer put Wisconsin on the board 6:14 into the game after a loose puck struck the side of the net and caromed right to the senior. Meuer gained control and beat UAH goalie Matt Larose on the short side. Zulinick followed suit at the 11:40 mark, when he netted his first goal as a Badger off a Sean Little (Fond du Lac, Wis.) feed from behind the net.

The score would stay that way until the third period, as the Chargers hung around despite only tallying three SOGs through two periods. But the Badgers finally laid any UAH comeback hopes to rest with a three-goal third period.

The goals came off the sticks of three different players, with Grant Besse (Plymouth, Minn.) finding the net 1:39 into the period, Tyler Barnes (Egan, Minn.) lighting the lamp at the 8:40 mark and Michael Mersch (Park Ridge, Ill.) putting the finishing touches on the effort with 5:43 to play.

Mersch’s goal, coming with UW shorthanded, extended his goal-scoring streak to six games, while also giving the Badgers goals from five different players on the night.

In addition to sharp play on both the offensive and defensive ends, the Badgers managed to go the entire first and second periods without committing a penalty. Those two periods — combined with a penalty-free effort against Colorado College on Dec. 14 — gave the Badgers five-plus periods in a row without a penalty before they were finally whistled in the third stanza.

All told, the Badgers outshot UAH 55-9, with the nine Charger shots on goal tying a Wisconsin school record for fewest SOGs allowed.

Joel Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan) made the most of a quiet night in the net, turning away all nine of the shots he faced while improving to 7-1-0 for the year. Larose made 23 saves on 25 attempts for the Chargers before ceding the net to Carmine Guerriero in the second period. Guerriero finished his night with 27 saves on 30 shots faced.

Neither team cashed in on special teams, with UAH finishing 0-2 and the Badgers coming up empty in five chances.

The Badgers return to the ice at 8 p.m. on Saturday looking for their third-straight series sweep at home. The game will be televised on FOX Sports Wisconsin PLUS.