Things got a little wild at the Kohl Center Friday night.
St. Cloud State Takes Opener 5-1
Playing in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, you better bring your best effort every night if you want to win. 19 games into the 2011-12 league season, the Wisconsin Men's hockey team has seemingly yet to understand that.
Playing flat, uninspired hockey for the majority of the night, Wisconsin was embarrassed by a depleted St. Cloud State club. The Huskies were without the services of three senior forwards (Drew LeBlanc, Travis Novak, and Jordy Christian) due to injury, as well as sophomores Cam Reid and Mitch MacMillan who both left the program over the semester break.
Yet the Huskies were able to dictate tempo and run the Badgers off their home rink in front of 11,213 fans at the Kohl Center.
After the game, Badger head coach Mike Eaves was almost at a loss for words trying to describe the teams effort.
"I just can’t explain it. We did not see this coming as a staff based on the way we practiced and with what was at stake. It was quite shocking, how the game unfolded for us."
The first four minutes of the game Wisconsin looked like they were going to control the action. Wisconsin's penalty kill had other ideas.
When Gavin Hartzog's interference penalty put the Badgers down a man, St. Cloud jumped on the board first when leading scorer Ben Hanowski took a feed from Jared Festler and beat Joel Rumpel from the right hash.
The penalty killing unit continues to be a major issue for Wisconsin as the season wears on. St. Cloud State was 3 for 5 with the man advantage and that was all the Huskies would need in routing the Badgers 5-1.
The Wisconsin PK is trending in the wrong direction, and is now ranked 56th (out of 58) in the country in penalty kill percentage. Only Sacred Heart and Vermont have been worse on the penalty kill this season.
Ten minutes after the Hanowski goal, things got a little out of hand at the Kohl Center. With St. Cloud breaking the puck up the right side of the ice, Wisconsin junior John Ramage lined up SCSU freshman Nick Oliver in his sights.
When Oliver caught the breakout pass and turned up ice, Ramage laid a shoulder to shoulder hit that sent multiple players and pieces of equipment sprawling across the ice.
A wild melee ensued with multiple scrums breaking out in the neutral zone. For the hit, Ramage was given a five minute major for contact to the head and ejected from the contest.
Oliver, who looked to be nursing a shoulder injury, a concussion, or most likely both, did not return to the game.
The hit appeared to be legal, and the Wisconsin fans made the referee's aware that they weren't happy with the decision to give Ramage the boot.
Obviously dejected after the game, Ramage, who doubles as Wisconsin's captain didn't have too much to say about it.
"To be honest, it’s a judgment call for the ref, and the ref thought it was a penalty."
Wisconsin never seemed to recover after the tussle.
A wrap around goal by David Eddy put the Huskies up 2-0 and they never looked back en route to scoring five straight before the badgers finally capitalized on the power play with two minutes to go.
Wisconsin alternate captain Ryan Little couldn't find a specific turning point in the game, but didn't mince his words when talking about his emotions after a loss that undoubtedly leaves the Badger Nation with an uneasy feeling in their stomach's.
"I think we faced adversity and when we faced that adversity we didn’t respond well. We branched out and didn’t stick together as a team, and therefore we fell apart and embarrassed ourselves."
Freshman goaltender Joel Rumpel, starting for the seventh straight for game for Wisconsin pulled out arguably his worst performance of the season. The Swift Current, Saskatchewan native allowed five goals on just 23 shots and looked lethargic and seemingly out of it at times.
The Badger net-minder didn't dance around the topic of his performance after the game though, admitting he's got to be better for this team to win games.
"It was probably my worst game all season," Rumpel noted afterwards. "I need to do better for the team and I know everybody expects a lot more out of me. The second and third goals were completely my fault. I think that hurt the team and I have to be better."
While Rumpel is an easy punching bag as the starting goaltender, he wasn't the only player that has seen better nights. In fact, I bet it would be tough to find many players on the Wisconsin roster who would be proud of their individual effort Friday night.
Although the loss obviously stings for Wisconsin, Little noted that one of the best parts about college hockey is that you get to come back again the next night to try to avenge the loss.
"We’re all going to go home tonight and it’s going to be tough to sleep. It’s tough to get over something like that but at the same time we talked after the game and said, ‘thank gosh we have another game tomorrow.’"
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