With one of the Badgers’ top offensive threats sidelined with an injury, Wisconsin was in need of contributions from secondary scoring if they wanted to win, and it did just that.
Both Jake Linhart and Max Zimmer scored their first goal of the season to help the Wisconsin men’s hockey team (6-3-0) defeat the Merrimack Warriors (4-6-3, 0-2-3-0 Hockey East) by a score of 3-2 on Friday night.
“I thought we came out great,” head coach Tony Granato said. “We go the two goals obviously – the one got disallowed – but we were in pretty good control of that game all the way through the first.”
The Badgers jumped out to an early lead just 21 seconds into the game as Ryan Wagner deflected a Merrimack outlet pass that landed on Luke Kunin’s stick which he slipped past Drew Vogler for an early 1-0 lead.
“Yeah, we had a great start. The first shift is a big one and tonight it went our way,” Wagner said. “We had 12 days off, so it’s a lot of on ice, video, and stuff like that with the coaches. I thought we got the start we wanted and we just need to keep building off of that.”
Later in the period, junior defenseman Jake Linhart netted a power-play goal from the point to extend the Badgers lead to 2-0 with under six minutes to play in the frame. Assists on the play went to Cameron Hughes and Grant Besse.
Jack Berry continued to stand tall in the opening period as he stopped all six shots he faced, allowing Wisconsin to head into the first intermission with a two-goal lead.
About seven minutes into the second period, Merrimack narrowed the Badgers’ lead to 2-1 as Brett Seney had a puck deflect in off of his skates as he was driving to the net.
The goal snapped Berry’s consecutive shutout streak at 144 minutes, 17 seconds, a record for Wisconsin goalies to start their career.
Despite the middle frame being the Warriors’ most dangerous period offensively, the Badgers headed into the third period with a slim 2-1 lead.
“That was the period that they got back in. The start was great but let’s give them credit, they’re a pretty good team,” Granato said.
Early in the third period, Max Zimmer scored his first goal of the season, and first as a Badger, on the power play, which gave the Cardinal and White a 3-1 lead. The freshman’s game-winning goal was assisted by Dan Labosky and Seamus Malone.
“Obviously, it was a great feeling,” Zimmer said. “Went nine games and finally put one home. That opportunity wouldn’t have happened without a great pass from Labosky across the crease. I looked up and saw the wide open net and I tried to put her in the net.”
Merrimack would claw one back four minutes later to make it 3-2 on Seney’s second goal of the game. The Warriors would have a late flurry of offense with their goalie pulled, but the Wisconsin held strong and closed out a tight 3-2 victory.
Berry wound up saving 17 out of 19 shots he faced on the night to earn his second win in as many starts and the Badgers outshot Merrimack, 36-19.
“Yeah, it was pretty impressive for a freshman. He’s been unreal. To get him another win and another good performance from him is nice,” Hughes said.
The Badgers and the Warriors will close out their weekend series Saturday night at the Kohl Center with puck drop set for 7 pm (CT). The game will be televised on FS Wisconsin Alternate, with streaming on BTN2go, and will be available for radio broadcast on WIBA-AM 1310 and the Badger Radio Network