March 28, 1981
DULUTH, Minn. -- The Wisconsin Hockey team took full advantage of its at-large berth in the NCAA Hockey Championship and captured the NCAA title for the third time under Head Coach Bob Johnson.
The Badgers downed the CCHA Champs Northern Michigan in the semi-final game 5-1 and then took on the top-ranked team in the country and WCHA title-winner Minnesota. Wisconsin beat Minnesota by a 6-3 count behind the steady goaltending of sophomore Marc Behrend and a total team effort that the Gophers could not match.
Behrend, who was also in the nets against Northern Michigan, was selected as the tournaments Most Valuable Player and along with freshmen center John Newberry, was placed on the all-tournament team. Behrend had a total of 55 saves in the meet, 25 against Northern and 30 against the Gophers. Newberry led the Badgers in scoring with two goals and four assists and tied with Aaron Broten of Minnesota for the scoring leader in the Duluth final four meet.
After a scoreless first period against Northern Michigan, Wisconsin opened up the second stanza with a power-play goal by Ed Lebler at the three-minute mark. A short-handed goal by John Johannson with just two seconds remaining in the period put the Badgers out in front for good. Defenseman Bruce Driver, center Scott Lecy and wing Ted Pearson all tallied third period goals. Northern got their only score after the Badgers had built a 3-0 advantage. The 5-1 victory put Wisconsin in the final game against Minnesota, who had downed Michigan Tech 7-2 in the other semi-final game.
Wisconsin playing on an emotional high never let the Gophers get into their style of play and first period goals by senior Dan Gorowsky, Newberry and Lebler gave the Badgers the confidence they needed. Wisconsin jumped out to a 4-0 margin midway through the second period on a goal by freshman Ted Pearson.
Minnesota cut the advantage to 4-1, but Newberry gave the Badgers their four-point lead back with a power-play goal. Minnesota scored a power-play goal just 10 seconds into the final period to get new life. Another power-play goal at the 16:09 mark cut Wisconsins margin to two goals. Minnesota pulled its goaltender with 1:24 remaining in the game and Lebler hit the open net from just outside his own blue line to ice the victory for the Badgers.
On their way to the 1981 NCAA crown, the Badgers defeated the conference champs of all three Division I leagues, in the NCAA quarter-finals, Wisconsin beat Clarkson 9-8, in a total goal series. Clarkson was the ECAC title holder. Northern Michigan had captured the CCHA title and Minnesota finished first in the WCHA.
The Badgers finished their season with an overall record of 27-14-1, second in the WCHA, tied with Michigan Tech and winners of the 34th NCAA hockey championship.
Scott Lecy led the team in scoring with 75 points (26 goals, 49 assists), while Pete Johnson and John Newberry were the top goal scorers with 30 apiece.