Wisconsin knew it had a tough draw when the NCAA tournament bracket was released and the first round opponent was announced as North Dakota. Those concerns came true Friday night, when the top-seeded Badgers dropped their first round game to 4th-seeded UND at the Midwest regional in Cincinnati.
UW trailed 2-1 heading into the third period, but a goal by Tyler Barnes evened the score at 2-2 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the final stanza.
The Badgers seemed to gain momentum from the goal, but a long-range pin-balling shot from Brendan O'Donnell bounced off UND forward Mark MacMillan and caromed into the UW net with just 1:44 remaining in the game.
North Dakota would add two empty net goals from Rocco Grimaldi to ice the 5-2 NCAA quarterfinal victory over the Badgers.
The loss is an obvious disappointment for a Wisconsin squad that entered the season with big expectations and a veteran club led by nine seniors.
North Dakota jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 5:06 into the opening period after Wisconsin defensemen Kevin Schulze and Chase Drake got caught up ice. The puck quickly shifted down into the corner in the Badgers' zone, and Drake Caggiula found Michael Parks all alone in front of the UW net. Parks did the rest, reaching around Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel and chipping the puck across the line for the early advantage.
The Badgers would bounce back midway through the first period when Jedd Soleway registered the first goal of his Wisconsin career. The freshman winger pounced on a loose puck on the power play, and quickly snapped a shot past UND goaltender Zane Gothberg to tie the score 11:41 into the opening period.
Another turnover would lead to North Dakota's second goal. A long clearing pass from Jake McCabe was taken away by UND sophomore Grimaldi, who was able to fend off UW defender Joe Faust and flick a backhanded shot past Rumpel for the 2-1 lead.
Barnes' goal would give the Badgers hope in the third period, but at the end of the day it wasn't enough to advance.
The game-winning goal from MacMillan is a tough way to lose an NCAA tournament game, but turnover after turnover Friday night put the Badgers in a tough position for the entire game. To put it bluntly, Wisconsin didn't deserve to advance with the performance they put on the ice in Cincinnati.
North Dakota out-shot the Badgers 35-24 for the game.
With the win, UND advances to play Ferris State in the Midwest regional final Saturday night.
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