There has been plenty written (check out a couple of good stories here and here) about the roller coaster ride of emotions that North Dakota faced after defeating Western Michigan 5-0 in the 3rd place game of the NCHC tournament (Target Center, Minneapolis, MN). The team had done its part, but needed some help to make the NCAA’s.
That help came in the form of the Wisconsin Badgers, former WCHA foe and long-time rival. On Saturday night, across the river at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Bucky was facing Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament championship. Down 4-2 with seven minutes remaining, UW scored twice in twenty seconds and rang a shot off the post in overtime before Mark Zengerle notched the game-winner at 7:48 of the first extra session.
To be fair, North Dakota’s 23-13-3 record and second-place finish in the NCHC would be good enough for an at-large bid in most seasons. But the new league did not fare well out of conference (37-31-16, .536), including an abysmal 9-17-8 (.382) mark against Hockey East and the ECAC.
Thanks to Wisconsin, UND has new life and nothing to lose. If #4 North Dakota manages to defeat the top-seeded Badgers, it would face the winner of #2 seed Ferris State (28-10-3, 20-6-2 WCHA) and#3 seed Colgate (20-13-5, 13-6-3 ECAC) for a trip to the Frozen Four (Philadelphia, PA).
Wisconsin is a veteran squad (ten seniors, six juniors) with a Hobey finalist (junior Joel Rumpel) in net. The Badgers have lost only five times since November 30th (20-5-1) after a 4-5-1 start (sound familiar?) and have given up more than three goals just twice in the past 26 games, the aforementioned Big Ten championship victory over the Buckeyes and a 5-4 overtime loss at Michigan State on March 14th.
Badger netminder Joel Rumpel has allowed 13 goals in the past four games (3.25 goals/game) after going through a nine game stretch from February 1st through March 8th where opponents scored a total of 14 goals (1.56 goals/game). Could it be that Rumpel is tiring after playing more than 75 percent of his team’s minutes in goal? The junior from Swift Current, Saskatchewan has not had a break since he came on in relief of Landon Peterson on January 3rd, a stretch of twenty consecutive games.
By comparison, UND sophomore goaltender Zane Gothberg has played less than 75 percent of the minutes for the Green and White, and teammate Clarke Saunders has started five games since January 24th. Gothberg’s numbers (2.05 goals-against average, .923 save percentage, 3 shutouts) are comparable to Rumpel’s (2.03 goals-against average, .930 save percentage, 2 shutouts), and he posted a shutout in his last start to give North Dakota a shot in the national tournament.
North Dakota has now advanced to the NCAA men’s ice hockey tournament for the twelfth consecutive season, the longest active streak in the country. A streak like that speaks to the consistency of the program and aids in recruiting, as the coaching staff can assure potential recruits that they will have an opportunity to compete for a national title every season at UND.
Wisconsin Team Profile
Head Coach: Mike Eaves (12th season at UW, 255-179-53, .578)
Pairwise Ranking: t-3rd
National Ranking: #4
This Season: 24-10-2 overall, 15-6-1 Big Ten (2nd)
Last Season: 22-13-7 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 13-8-7 WCHA (t-4th)
Team Offense: 3.28 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.0% (24 of 126)
Penalty Kill: 84.6% (121 of 143)
Key Players: Senior F Mark Zengerle (10-33-43), Sophomore F Nic Kerdiles (15-22-37), Senior F Michael Mersch (22-13-35), Senior F Tyler Barnes (13-14-27), Junior D Jake McCabe (8-17-25), Senior D Frankie Simonelli (6-13-19), Junior G Joel Rumpel (21-5-1, 2.03 GAA, .930 SV%, 2 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (10th season at UND, 258-132-40, .647)
Pairwise Ranking: 14th
National Ranking: #13
This Season: 23-13-3 overall, 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 22-13-7 overall (NCAA West Regional finalist), 14-7-7 WCHA (3rd)
Team Offense: 3.05 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.49 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.9% (31 of 173)
Penalty Kill: 83.1% (138 of 166)
Key Players: Sophomore F Rocco Grimaldi (14-22-36), Sophomore F Michael Parks (11-17-28), Junior F Mark MacMillan (9-14-23), Sophomore F Drake Caggiula (11-12-23), Freshman F Luke Johnson (8-13-21), Senior D Dillon Simpson (7-15-22), Sophomore D Jordan Schmaltz (6-17-23), Sophomore G Zane Gothberg (18-9-3, 2.05 GAA, .923 SV%, 3 SO)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 2, 2013 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota used two goals from Michael Parks and two assists each from Rocco Grimaldi and Carter Rowney to down the visiting Badgers 4-1. UND freshman netminder Zane Gothberg made 21 of 22 saves to earn the victory, and the Green and White converted two of eight man advantage situations and held UW scoreless on five power plays. The two teams skated to a 1-1 tie in Friday’s opener. There were 205 minutes of penalties called in the weekend series.
Last Meeting in the NCAA Tournament: March 30, 2008 (Madison, WI). North Dakota overcame a two goal deficit and a partisan Kohl Center crowd to down the Badgers and advance to the Frozen Four. Rylan Kaip and Ryan Duncan scored goals less than 50 seconds apart in the third period, and Andrew Kozek completed the comeback with the game winner 1:47 into overtime. Hobey Baker finalist Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux made 41 saves for UND, which also saw T.J. Oshie assist on the game-tying and game-winning goals.
Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1982 (Providence, RI). A 2-2 tie after two periods turned into a 5-2 Sioux victory, as Phil Sykes netted a hat trick and led UND to its fourth National Championship. Glen White scored the first goal of the game for North Dakota and assisted on two of Sykes’ goals. Darren Jensen backstopped the Green and White and was named to the all-tournament team along with Sykes, defenseman James Patrick, and forward Cary Eades. This title would be the second of three North Dakota titles won at the Providence Civic Center (1980, 2000).
All-time Series: Wisconsin leads the all-time series, 86-65-12 (.564), although North Dakota is unbeaten (2-0-0) all-time in NCAA postseason play against the Badgers.
Last Ten: The Green and White have had Bucky’s number lately, going 5-3-2 (.600) in the last ten tilts. UND is unbeaten in the last four (3-0-1), outscoring UW 14-7.
Game News and Notes
Despite coaching for two fewer seasons than his counterpart on the UW bench, North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol has collected three more victories than Mike Eaves. Hakstol is 12-4 in NCAA regional games, and, with four more victories, would tie coaching legend Dean Blais (262-115-33) for second-most wins all time at North Dakota. Wisconsin has ten seniors on its current roster, with nine expected to be in the lineup this weekend. North Dakota has only four, including two (Mitch MacMillan, Clarke Saunders) who are not expected to play today.
If this game were played ten times, the Wisconsin would win seven or eight. But I’ve got a feeling that UND will play fast and loose with nothing to lose against the top-seeded Badgers and take an early lead. It’s looking more and more like the first team to three goals will win the game, and I’ll take the Green and White. North Dakota 3, Wisconsin 2.
I’ve got Ferris State taking down Colgate 4-1 in the other regional semifinal. Check back tomorrow for a preview of the regional final on the way to Philadelphia and the Frozen Four.