March 26, 1977
By Jay Poster – Wisconsin State Journal Sports Writer
DETROIT – Steve Alley slammed in a rebound of Tom Ulseth’s shot 23 seconds into the overtime Saturday night to give the weary Badgers a 6-5 victory over Michigan and the 1977 NCAA hockey championship.
Wisconsin, visibly dragging after a tough overtime victory over new Hampshire Friday night, saw a three-goal lead vanish in the face of some blistering shooting by the wolverines in the final 20 minutes of regulation.
But seconds after the opening faceoff, Mike Eaves won a faceoff with Kop Maurer in the Michigan end. Both watched momentarily as the puck skidded toward the left boards. Then Tom Ulseth scooper it up, sailed around the back boards behind the net and tried to stuff in past goalie Rick Palmer but Palmer kicked it out. Eaves, in the slot, took another shot and again Palmer booted in back. Finally Alley, about 20 feet out just to the right of Palmer, whacked in along the ice and it skimmed through a maze of bodies and into the net/
The crowd poured out onto the ice and the Badgers barreled into each other in ecstasy over having pulled out a championship which Michigan appeared to have heading its way.
At least 300 of the approximately 6,000 Wisconsin fans in attendance danced to the music of the Wisconsin pep band while seniors Alley, John Taft, Dave Herbst and Dave Lundeen skated around the Olympia Stadium with the Badgers second national championship plaque in five years.
Coach Bob Johnson, wearing a red cowboy hat which has become almost uniform-of-the-day for the legions of Badger fans who follow the team to national tournaments, was like a kid in the post-game interview.
“Some fan gave this out on the ice,” Johnson said of the hat, so laden with “Go Big Red” buttons as to hang down over his ears.
“It’s a great thrill,” said Johnson, who had said that winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Assn. championship represented more prestige, having briefly forgotten that the NCAA title represents a greater thrill.
“I was so proud of our kids,” Johnson said. “They were tired. They were playing with injuries. We just played Alley and Eaves to death. Julian was emotionally drained, yet he stayed in there.”
As the locker room outer door would open and close, chants of “We want Hawk,” went up from about 200 fans ringing the exit to the dressing room. Finally, Johnson went out, raising is arms triumphantly to the cheers. He asked for a moment of silence but it took even Johnson a minute to quiet the boisterous fans.
“Listen,” he said as the noise abated. “The team and myself want to thank you all. We were tired out but you kept us skating and you deserve a lot of credit.”
Baretta, the all-tournament team goalie and most valuable player in the tournament, had to play both games since Mike Dibble reinjured his knee in Thursday’s workout at Olympia and lost any chance he had to be ready to play in the tourney. Dibble left for Madison on Friday morning and was not around Saturday night to hear the fans chanting his name during the on-ice celebration.
Baretta, who played for an Alberta Junior B team which won the Canadian-wide Centennial Cup in 1975, said nothing compares with the thrill of winning a national championship.
“Probably the only other thing as good would be winning the Stanley Cup (for the National Hockey League championship),” said Baretta, who has been named All-American, all-WCHA and shared in the Badgers’ WCHA title this season.
“This may sound corny,” Baretta said. “But a lot of players were crying in the dressing room after the game. It was really an emotional thing. This is just 100 times more important to me (than the All-American honor). We worked so hard as a a team all year. During winter Vacation, when the kids were home, we were up at 8 o’clock in the morning working out. I’ve never met a greater bunch of guys. There’s not a guy on the team who doesn’t like every other guy. Twenty years from now I’ll do anything for Craig Norwich or John Taft.”
Baretta conceded his weariness left his reactions a little dulled in the third period when Michigan rallied fiercely to score three goals and outshoot Wisconsin, 15-8.
“Maybe it wasn’t physically fatiguing to play two nights in a row, but it was mentally fatiguing,” Baretta said. “I’d let up for a second. The third goal I saw all the way but I just misjudged it and the fifth one was a routine stick save.”
If Wisconsin was off balance in Friday’s overtime victory over New Hampshire, the Badgers came out clicking against the Wolverines on Saturday night.
They passed crisply and confidently and played strong defense, with the forwards coming back to backcheck consistently. Baretta played confidently and positively in the net, even coming 30 feet out of his goal in the first period to knock away a loose puck and stop a potential Michigan breakaway.
Wisconsin jumped to a 3-0 lead on goals by Alley, Herbst and Mark Johnson.
Alley scored on a power play 2 minutes, 29 seconds into the game when fought off a man in the slot and deflected a Craig Norwhich slapshot from the center blue line past goalie Palmer.
Herbst scored on a breakout off a beautiful pass from Norwich at 9:27. The two Badgers steamed down the slot, Norwich on the left side and Herbst slightly ahead of him on the right. Norwich slid a pass through traffic to Herbst at the goal mouth and Herbst flicked the pass in.
Mark Johnson scored on a rebound of an Alley shot on a power play at 15:12. Norwich, at the blue line, passed to Eaves in the left circle and Eaves got it to Alley, who got off a shot in the slot. The rebound hopped out to Palmer’s left and lay there until Johnson could roar in from the right circle and flip it over Palmer.
Mike Meeker scored for Wisconsin in the second period, giving the Badgers a 4-2 lead a minute after Michigan had narrowed it to 3-2. Meeker carried the puck down the right win boards, stopped and deked around a defender at about the top of the circle then skated a stride and floated a backhander which hit the bottom of Palmer’s glove and skittered down into the net at 2:15.
Mark Johnson scored his second goal of the night at 1:10 of the third period.
Twenty-six seconds later Michigan started its comeback and the game culminated in Alley’s goal.
“Mike (Eaves) won the faceoff and Al forechecked it away from a guy,” Ulseth said. “I took it behind the cage and came around and tried to stuff it.”
Alley said he got the rebound after Eaves had had a second shot “and I just shoveled it into the open net.”