Illinois State Redbirds varsity hockey team travelled to Madison, Wisconsin Friday night to play the University of Wisconsin Badgers in a two game set.
Heading into the weekend the Redbirds had three wins and one loss to their record. The Badgers started the season red hot by winning their first six games of the season. The Redbirds entered Madison looking to sweep away the Badgers and handing them their first two losses.
The first game of the set ended with a score of Redbirds four and the Badgers one. The victory was the Redbirds fourth of the season and it was the Badgers first defeat of the year. In a game that started out slow for the Redbirds, their goalie Evan Casas kept the Badgers off the scoreboard long enough for his team to take advantage of the game.
With no goals scored in the first period for either team, the Redbirds came out for the second period with an increased level of intensity. Redbirds forward Phil O’Connor finally got his team on the scoreboard with ten minutes to play in the second period. Receiving passes from defensemen Adam Erickson and Brian Harrison, O’Connor took the puck down the left sideboards and shot the puck short side blocker to beat the Badgers goalie. The Redbirds took the lead one to zero.
Then with three minutes to play in the second period, forward Chris Drinkwater scored a goal that may turn out to be the prettiest goal of the year the Redbirds will have. After serving a penalty, Drinkwater stormed out of the penalty box and received a pass from defenseman A.J. Lee. Drinkwater took the puck across the blue line and sniped a shot over the goalies left shoulder. The shot was perfectly placed, knocking the goalies water bottle off the top of the net. The Redbirds took the lead two to zero and never would look back.
The second period ended and the Redbirds were in good shape to win the game. Entering the third period, the Redbirds were looking for a couple of insurance goals. Redbirds forward Chris Wagner gave them their first insurance goal of the night and made the score three to zero in favor of the Redbirds. Wagner’s goal was assisted by forwards Andrew Jesernig and Jon Marino.
The Redbirds then took a four to zero lead on a goal by forward Mike McKeague. McKeague being at the right place at the right time, banged home a rebound from the shot of Redbirds defenseman Justin Brown. The Redbirds now had a four to zero lead with two minutes to play.
The Badgers finally got on the board with 20.3 seconds left in the game. It was a little too late for the Badgers to have any chance of making a comeback. The Redbirds won the game four to one. Entering the second game of the set, the Redbirds have a record of four wins and one loss. Game two is tonight at 8 p.m. and the Redbirds are looking for the series sweep.