Staff Photo--Chuck Schwartz
UND Sweeps Wisconsin 5-3, 4-2
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Already behind the 8-ball due to an atypical start to the conference season, the Badgers couldn't afford to give away any more ground in the WCHA standings against North Dakota who started the weekend just two points ahead of the Badgers in the conference.
That pressure was magnified coming to the rink on Saturday for the Badgers knowing that they had already given away two points on Friday night to a team they are battling with for a home playoff series in the WCHA playoffs.
Wisconsin simply didn't have the juice to overcome UND on Satuday, falling to the team formerly known as Sioux for the second night in a row.
"Competitive team we played. They battled, and they did the things, they got timely goals. And you're in their barn and it's a tough place to win. We didn't make plays at those tough moments, those moments of truth and they did," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves noted after the weekend.
North Dakota was the first to get on the board late in the first period. Once again the Badgers were burned on the power play. UND forward Danny Kristo rushed the puck through the neutral zone and fed it to Brock Nelson down the left side.
Kristo continued on his path to the net, with the Badger defenseman letting him slip right past with no resistance. Nelson, a first round pick of the New York Islanders fed it back to Kristo who banged it past Rumpel.
It was UND's third power play tally of the weekend. Wisconsin is now 51st out of 58 teams in the country in killing penalties this season.
Wisconsin caught the break they needed just seconds later. Off the ensuing faceoff Justin Schultz sent a pass through the neutral zone to try and spring Keegan Meuer on a break away. The feed was too long and looked to be going for an icing.
However in the race for the puck, Meuer's stick blatantly tripped up UND defenseman Andrew MacWilliam leaving Meuer all alone in the zone with the puck. Meuer ripped one past North Dakota net-minder Brad Eidsness to tie the game at one at the end of the first period.
North Dakota would just back out front early in the second period when MacWilliam fired a slap shot from 10 feet outside the blue-line that fooled Rumpel and made it's way into the Badger cage. Rumpel appeared to lose the puck in the stands but still took the blame.
"I was probably a little deep in my net. The puck was on end and it was curving a bit. I was trying to catch it with my glove hand but ended up losing it in the stands. Still unacceptable," Rumpel noted after the game.
One might think a long goal like that in a big game might rattle a young goaltender, but Rumpel bounced back and played solid the rest of the way en route to a 37 save night. Included in those 37 was a breakaway chance from UND star forward Corban Knight that kept the Badgers alive in the second period..
After the game Eaves noted that's one of the strengths of his freshman net-minder.
"He makes an unbelievable save at the end of the second period for us, guys knew he was still with it. But that’s kind of Joel, he just let it go and he came back and made some unbelievable saves for us and kept us in it."
Goals from Michael Parks and Brock Nelson would go on to seal the deal for the North Dakota sweep. Wisconsin never got it going in the third period and missed the presence of junior forward Derek Lee who was scratched due to an upper body injury suffered on Friday night.
The weekend sweep puts the Badgers in a tough position when it comes to the league standings. Wisconsin ends the weekend in 9th place in the 12 team WCHA.
The Badgers are five points back from 6th place UNO who also has two games in hand on the Badgers.
"We did a lot of good things, but not enough to get us wins. That’s the final measuring line. There are a lot of good things that we did that we’ll continue to build on," Eaves told the media after the weekend.
"Does it make the path (to home ice) steeper? I’m not going to lie to you, it does."
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