Coming into the season, Wisconsin sophomore goaltender Joel Rumpel was expected to be one of the key cogs in the Badgers formula for success. If he gets help from his defensemen the way he did Friday night in Duluth, the Badgers have themselves quite the recipe.
Rumpel stopped 29 shots, including 12 in the third period to help lead the Badgers to a 2-0 victory over 14th ranked Minnesota-Duluth. The win was the Badgers first of the season after being swept two weeks ago vs Northern Michigan.
Rumpel played decent in the season opener in Green Bay, but looked more like his old self Friday night.
"Tonight I felt a lot more confident out there, and our team felt a lot more confident," Rumpel said. "And that showed out there on the ice."
Sophomore Jake McCabe talked about the play of his classmate after the Badgers win.
"(Joel) Rumpel stood tall back there. He does what he does, he's confident, he's so poised," McCabe said. "And we can see that as players and it gives us confidence as well."
Rumpel received a lot of help along the way. In total the Badgers blocked 20 shots on the night, including 13 in the third period. Many of the blocked shots came after freshman Morgan Zulinick was given a five minute major and was ejected for checking from behind.
Rumpel was sharp during the five minute penalty kill, and used that momentum to carry himself through the end of the game.
"It's tough to see where the puck is at, and they are throwing everything on net and it's hitting guys," Rumpel said after the game.
"It's a little tough but it woke me up a little bit, kept me in the game."
The Badgers got on the board in the first period when Tyler Barnes found the back of the net for his first of the season. The junior right winger was able to snatch up a rebound after a McCabe shot was bouncing around the slot, and beat UMD freshman goaltender Matt McNeely to give the Badgers a 1-0 advantage.
McNeely was sharp the entire night, despite being tagged for the loss. The Burnsville native finished the game with 24 saves, many of the spectacular fashion.
Wisconsin extended their lead to two 14:08 into the second period on the power-play. Known for his poise, junior centerman Mark Zengerle waited until he found an opening and zinged a wrist shot off the far pipe that found it's way to the back of the net.
The goal was Zengerle's second of the season, and he now carries a three game point streak to start the season.
UPDATE: The @BadgerMHockey official twitter account tweeted late Friday night that the goal has been changed to Michael Mersch. Apparently Mersch tipped Zengerle's shot.
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves thought Zengerle was one of the better players for the Badgers Friday night.
"He was noticeable in all aspects, with and without the puck," Eaves said. "He was one of our better performers tonight."
The win was big for a team that played below their expectations two weeks ago in their season opener.
McCabe talked about going back to work at practice the past two weeks while they waited for to open up the WCHA in Duluth.
"We battled. We put our hard hats on every day. We couldn't wait to get out here and beat up on the other guys instead of our own teammates," McCabe said. "Our hard work paid off."
While the Badgers played better in the third period than they did in either game vs Northern Michigan, they still have some work to do on finishing games.
As Eaves mentioned after the game, the important thing is that they found a way to win the hockey game.
"We were very good in the first two periods, and found a way to get the job done in the third period."
The Badgers and Bulldogs will be back at it in the series finale Saturday night at Amsoil Arena. The game will mark the final regular season contest between the two schools as members of the WCHA.
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