Wisconsin sweeps Anchorage 4-0, 3-2
When your club is in 10th place in the league standings entering the second half, it can be easy to get lost in the hype of acquiring the four possible points available for the weekend. It's cost the Badgers in the first half, who might not have brought their fastball on both nights of a series.
The Badgers are taking a new approach in the second half, borrowing a theme from another prominent team on campus.
"We've kind of had this 1-0 mentality that the football team has had, and just worrying about it day-by-day and not going into a weekend saying we have to win both," sophomore Mark Zengerle noted after the Friday night win.
"We're just thinking about one game at a time."
That approach worked for Wisconsin this weekend as the Badgers were able to overcome a stingy Alaska Anchorage club who came out playing inspired hockey on Saturday to earn four huge league points.
The story in the 4-0 win on Friday night was the play of freshman net-minder Joel Rumpel who earned his second career shutout. The Swift Current, Saskatchewan native is playing the best hockey of his young career and it's rubbing off on his teammates.
"He's one of the most laid-back goaltenders I've ever played with, and I think all the guys would agree with that," freshman defenseman Jake McCabe noted after the Friday night win.
"It was kind of scaring us at first. Usually your goalie is all nervous before games, but he's all nice and relaxed and I think it has started getting us relaxed."
After being held off the score sheet for the first time in 20 games last Saturday in Mankato, Zengerle bounced back with another couple of big nights for Wisconsin. The Rochester, NY native got the scoring started on Friday night when he picked up a loose puck and banged it past Anchorage goalie Chris Kamal.
Zengerle would add two assists later on Friday, as well as two on Saturday to complete a five point weekend for the sophomore center.
Eaves talked about what makes Zengerle such a special offensive weapon.
"Well I think with the puck he is playing to his strengths and his strengths are his ability to see the ice, and he really has the innate ability to know what he is going to do before he gets the puck on his stick," Eaves noted after Friday night's game.
"That’s what good offensive players do because they know that people are going to be coming to them taking time and space away so by knowing that he is able to bounce the puck to a space or an area before he gets pressure.''
Despite the win on Saturday night, Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves was still a little bit disappointed with the early effort on Saturday, noting that his team still has maturing to do.
"Our hope as a coaching staff is the fact that we hope it helps us mature as a team. One of the things that we felt was frustrating after the first period tonight we didn’t come out and play nearly as hard or as effective as we need to, which was disappointing."
After a scoreless first period on Saturday, Anchorage took the lead on a goal from Austin Coldwell.That seemed to spark the Badgers who would score two goals in the next couple of minutes following the Coldwell tally.
Tyler Barnes got the Badgers on the board Saturday when he unleashed a wicked wrister that beat Kamal upstairs. It was Barnes first goal since the Mercyhurst series around Thanksgiving.
Junior Derek Lee would give the Badgers their first lead of the night just moments later when Justin Schultz found him streaking down the right side. Lee's shot seemed to handcuff Kamal and sneak across the goal line.
Eaves was happy with the way Wisconsin battled back after a slow start Saturday.
"They went out and they took the reigns a little bit more, but forging the win the way we did tonight we were hoping that leads us to some maturity and understanding of what we need to do before we get into this type of fix."
With the score tied at two late in the third period, Wisconsin's Hobey Baker candidate Justin Schultz stepped up and made a Hobey type play that led to the game winning goal.
Schultz took a pass from LaBate and charged down the right side boards and took the puck hard to the net. With the Anchorage defenders collapsing on him, Schultz made a great play to feed freshman Joseph LaBate who was able to chip the puck past Kamal to give the Badgers a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Classmate Derek Lee talked about Scuhltz after Saturday night's win.
"The biggest thing is he’s so competitive that he wants to be out there. It showed tonight. It shows every night. He’s a game-changer. It was a real nice pass over to (Joseph) LaBate and it was a good finish for us."
LaBate, who's goal secured two more huge league points for a Wisconsin team that's fighting for home ice in the WCHA playoffs gushed about the junior alternate captain from West Kelowna, British Columbia.
"I learn stuff from him (Schultz) everyday. He’s a great role model in the locker room. On the ice he does stuff that I only imagine doing. He’s a great player and he’s playing at a NHL level right now. I’m really happy for him. He’s doing great."
Wisconsin, who is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games will have another big challenge next weekend. The Badgers travel to Grand Forks to take on North Dakota, a club who is battling with the Badgers for one of the last few home ice spots.
Notes from the weekend
- Badger freshman defenseman Jake McCabe, who is in his NHL Draft year had a goal on Friday which gives him 6 points in 8 games since returning from a hand injury suffered in October. McCabe told the media after the game on Friday that he's 100% back.
- Zengerle's four assists this weekend give him 28 on the season which leads the country. Zengerle is second in the nation in overall points with 38.
- Wisconsin was solid in the faceoff circle all weekend. The only primary center from the Badgers to have a losing record was Jefferson Dahl (8-11). Zengerle (25-22), Lee (12-9), and Keegan Meuer (8-3) all had positive weekends in the circle.
- Badgers were held without a power play goal this weekend. Wisconsin was 0-3 with the man advantage Friday and 0-2 on Saturday. Wisconsin's PP is 14th in the country at 21.6%.
- Wisconsin killed off 4 of 5 Anchorage power plays on the weekend. After a terrible start to the season, Wisconsin has raised their pk percentage to 76.3%. That's still not good enough but the Badgers have come a long way.
- Wisconsin freshman goaltender Joel Rumpel has given up only five goals in his past five starts. He has a .964 save % over that span.
- The Badgers scored 7 goals on the weekend. They are now 14th in the country in scoring at 3.17 goals per game.
Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!
For more Wisconsin hockey coverage, follow Chuck on Twitter (@UWChuckSchwartz)
Chuck can also be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org