June 27, 2014
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BY CHRISTIAN BLATNER
UW Athletic Communications
MADISON, Wis. - The LaBahn Arena played host to hockey game Friday night, but one that meant much more than just a final score and a tally in the win column for the Badgers.
Countless former Wisconsin hockey players and many current NHL standouts returned to Madison for the Blake Geoffrion Hockey Classic, raising money to benefit the UW Health Burn Center. The event, which brought 2,255 fans to the rink, raised over $65,000.
"It was unbelievable," Geoffrion said after the game. "The best thing about this event was how great the fans were. I know the players had fun. We saw some personalities in guys that you usually don't see. Everyone was having a blast out there and it seemed like the fans were engaged the whole time. It was entertaining, it was funny, it was exciting and I can't say thanks enough to Coach Alvarez for allowing us to have this event."
Despite back-and-forth scoring for three periods, the White Team, led by UW women's hockey head coach Mark Johnson, squeaked out narrow 15-13 victory over Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves' Red squad.
"I'm happy we came out with a win," Geoffrion admitted. "There were some great names that came out and got to relive their university hockey career."
A sloppy, scoreless start by both teams gave way to a flurry of goals in the latter half of the first period, as the Red Team opened up the flood gates for a five spot before the White Team netted four unanswered tallies.
While there were a quite a few flashy goals, including a tick-tack-toe tally finished off by Tom Gilbert for the first strike of the game, the players' celebrations may have been even more impressive.
Following his sniper goal, which knocked opposing goaltender Brian Elliott's water bottle onto the ice, Robbie Earl slid along the boards with Andrew Jourdey and Adam Burish, waving their sticks in a rowing motion.
But the goals--and celebrations--didn't stop there.
After Michael Mersch skated end to end to bury a backhanded top-shelf goal, opening the second period scoring, the Red Team formed a circle in front of its bench and showed off some dance moves.
Red Team captain Burish celebrated one of his two goals by dropping his gloves, undoing his chinstrap and rolling his helmet across the ice towards his teammates who were arranged like bowling pins.
"We didn't win the score," Burish said, "but I think [the Red Team] had the best celebrations, so at the end of the day it was a 1-1 tie."
While it may have been the first time Elliott had ever allowed 13 goals in a single game, even he was able to get in on the fun. Following a poke-check save, the netminder left the crease and trailed his team's rush down the ice. Elliott was unable to finish his fancy backhand on Red Team goalie Joel Rumpel, but Ryan McDonagh was there to put it away.
"I know I wasn't stopping any shots, so I may as well have tried to score some," the St. Louis Blues goalie said. "I think I got a good assist, but it's all in good fun. When we heard over $65,000 was raised, that was awesome. We were trying to help out as many people as we could and it was a chance to get together with all the guys.
"The Badger fans also had a lot of fun and that's what it's all about. Having a good time, making a night out of it and hopefully we provided some fun."
If there was a single moment to cap the evening, it was the scene that transpired as time ran out. Both teams hopped from their respective benches and took the ice to finish the contest together as one team.
"Just being out there with the guys again was awesome--kind of feeling like you're a Badger for a few minutes again," Burish said. "It's always special for us to come back. Blake Geoffrion did a heck of a job. I know he spent a lot of time and put a lot of energy into it. It was a pretty neat event he put on here and cool of the guys to come back. The fans made it a lot of fun for us.
"And to top it off, we raised a lot of money for a pretty good cause."