Some ties feel more like wins, and others feel more like losses. When the 11th place Bemidji State (5-16-6, 4-12-5 WCHA) comes to town on a 10-game winless streak, it feels more like a loss.
Friday night Wisconsin (11-9-7, 8-6-7 WCHA) gave up leads of 1-0, and 2-1, and eventually settled for a 2-2 tie against Bemidji in front of a sparse crowd of 8,907 at the Kohl Center.
Given the close proximity in the current WCHA race, the Badgers can't afford to drop any points at home, let alone against a team ranked 54th (out of 59) in the RPI.
"We're definitely disappointed with a tie tonight," junior forward Sean Little said after the game. "Give credit to Bemidji, they played a solid game and are a tough team to play against. But, we definitely needed two points tonight. That would have been big for our club and we're not satisfied with one."
Wisconsin dominated large stretches of the contest, attempting 66 total shots while holding Bemidji to just 39 on the night. However a few costly mistakes from the Badgers were the difference in the series opener.
Bemidji's first goal came on a play where Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel went behind the net to play the puck, but couldn't stop it before it found the stick of a Bemidji forward. As Rumpel was retreating to his net, Beaver forward Phil Brewer threw the puck out front, banking it in off the skate of Rumpel and into the back of the net.
Besides that miscue, Rumpel was sharp the whole night, including a full two-minute 5-on-3 shortly after the first goal.
"(Rumpel) came right back and was unbelievable in the five-on-three," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves noted after the game. "He was our best penalty killer there."
Wisconsin had a fantastic opportunity to win the game late, when junior center Mark Zengerle found himself one-on-one with Bemidji goaltender Mathieu Dugas in the slot. Freshman Nic Kerdiles made a great pass to Zengerle finding him streaking in back-side on the rush, but Dugas was able to shut down Zengerle to force overtime.
"He outwaited him and he just stayed on his feet," Eaves noted after the game. "He didn't go down, like I think Mark was trying to get him to bite and go down, and he just stayed right on his feet. It was a classic one-on-one won by the goalie."
Visibly frustrated at the result, Zengerle was second guessing his shot selection after the game.
"I should have just shot it five-hole since the goalie stood up the entire time, which was a weird play by him," Zengerle said. "But I guess he just read me well."
Wisconsin scored a rare power-play goal to kick off the scoring in the first period. With the Badgers' second PP unit on the ice, sophomore center Brendan Woods found a loose puck on the side of the Bemidji cage and was able to slide it over to Kerdiles out front. With a wide open net to shoot at, the Irvine, Calif., native buried it for the 1-0 lead.
The Badgers' second goal came off the stick of junior wing Sean Little. After a hard-working shift in the offensive zone, Jefferson Dahl and Joe Faust combined to feed the puck to Little in the slot who sliced one past Dugas to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead heading into the third period
Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the Beavers would get it back in the third period on an unnasisted goal by Danny Mattson. The puck bounced off the stick of Badger defenseman Kevin Schulze right to Mattson who was able to even the ledger at two.
Despite out-shooting Bemidj 16-7 in the third period, the Beavers were able to hold on and send it to overtime. After a scoreless five minutes, the two teams ended in a frustrating 2-2 tie.
The Badgers will be back in action against Bemidji Saturday night at the Kohl Center, but must put more pressure in the face of the Beaver goaltenders according to Little.
"We had close to 40 shots tonight, but most of them the goalie could see since they were coming from a long ways away," Little noted. "I think just getting more bodies to the net, keep shooting the puck and tightening the defensive zone a little to eliminate time and space and I think we'll have a better result."