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Fast start keys opening victory

MADISON, Wis. -- No. 3 Wisconsin (1-0) raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and didn't look back, knocking off Northern Michigan (0-1) 5-2 in the season opener.

Zengerle's two assists helped No. 3 Wisconsin race past Norther Michigan 5-2.

The three first period goals would be all the Badgers needed Friday night. Joseph LaBate got Wisconsin on the board early with the first goal of the season coming at the 5:07 mark. Assisting on the season's first score were Michael Mersch and Nic Kerdiles.

"You want a great start," Head Coach Mike Eaves said. "68 percent of all teams that score first win games. You want to put those percentages in your favor. Having that great start tonight was a good thing."

Despite committing three first period penalties, Wisconsin still found a way to extend their lead in the opening session. Just after killing Northern Michigan's first power play opportunity of the game, Jake McCabe scored on a short handed goal, collecting a rebound off the miss from Mark Zengerle.

After assisting on the game's first goal, Mersch collected a score of his own before the first period horn sounded. Northern Michigan committed two penalties late in the period and Mersch made the Wildcats pay on the two-man advantage.

"We were getting to places," Eaves stated. "We had good energy. If you can outnumber people to the puck, you're going to get it more often. We did a nice job on that."

The second period featured sloppy execution and a number of missed opportunities for Wisconsin. However there would be some fireworks at the end. Neither team was able to cash in on seven second period penalties, until Northern Michigan's C.J. Ludwig beat Wisconsin Goaltender Landon Peterson to bring the Wildcats within 3-1.

After a scoreless 21 minutes of play, Wisconsin ended the second period with a bang as the Badgers wouldn't need long to answer the Wildcats' first goal. Just a minute later and with Goalie Landon Peterson off the ice briefly because of a delayed penalty call giving the Badgers an extra attacker, Tyler Barnes made the Wildcats pay, giving Wisconsin a 4-1 cushion heading into the final period.

Beginning the third period on a power play, the Badgers were unable to convert on the extra-man advantage, but less than a minute after the penalty came to a conclusion, Grant Besse put home an easy score off a beautiful feed from Jefferson Dahl for his first goal as a Badger.

Peterson stopped 18 of 20 shots Friday night.

Northern Michigan would get a late power play goal from Stephan Vigier after Keegan Meuer was called for a two-minute high sticking penalty. Vigier's goal brought the Wildcats within three, but it was too little, too late as Wisconsin went on to win 5-2 in front of an announced crowd of 8,092.

For the night, Wisconsin committed nine of the game's 16 penalties, but killed off five of Northern Michigan's seven power play opportunities.

"We had way too many penalties, that's for sure," McCabe said. "They are getting a little more strict this year about holding calls and stick penalties. Our best penalty kill is not to commit penalties first of all. We adapted throughout the game with our rotation, we were blocking shots, which was good to see."

Although two shots got past him, Goaltender Landon Peterson was given the game puck and was key to slowing down the high amount of Northern Michigan power plays. Peterson made 18 saves for his first win of the season.

"There was only 20 shots, but he had to be good," Eaves explained. "Out of those 20 shots, there will be a lot of C+/A scoring chances for them. He was key."

Ten different Wisconsin players tallied points in the win, including freshman forwards Grant Besse and Jedd Soleway, who recorded a goal and an assist, respectively, for their first career points as Badgers.

On a night where the No. 1 ranked team in the country UMass-Lowell fell 2-1 to Sacred Heart, Wisconsin had a promising opening victory, whether you can draw anything from just the one game or not.

"We hadn't played in five months," said Eaves. "There was things that we know we can do better, but we did more good things than poor things tonight. We've had four practices. We go right into games. You really don't know what you're going to get."

Wisconsin and Northern Michigan play the final game of the series Saturday night. Featuring an entire roster that has never won a season opener, the Badgers are feeling good about their chances to collect a sweep over the Wildcats to begin the 2013-2014 season.

"We were talking about that previously," Mark Zengerle explained. "It's nice to get that start. But our goal for the weekend is to go 2-0. We got one more to close it out."

Notable Quotes

"We'll come in tomorrow and see how they're doing, then we'll move forward." - Head Coach Mike Eaves on which goaltender will start Saturday.

"We went out there, got the puck deep, and went after the defenders. We hounded the puck. Being aggressive like that scared them a little bit I think and put them on their heels. It turned out a lot of chances for us." -Nic Kerdiles on Wisconsin's fast start."

"I think both those guys give us a great chance of winning no matter what game it is. I'm not surprised. Both of them are great goalies. Either or, we're ready to go." - Mark Zengerle on the decision to start Peterson in goal."

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