Sundays have been kind to the Wisconsin men’s hockey team.
One week after taking down No. 2 Minnesota 3-2 in the Hockey City Classic, No. 18 Wisconsin (14-10-7, 11-7-7 WCHA) downed Penn State (12-14-0) 5-0 on senior night.
Heading into the series with the worst power play in the nation, the Badgers capitalized on two of their seven man-advantages of the night to pull away from the soon-to-be conference rival Nittany Lions.
As junior forward Michael Mersch netted his sixth power play goal of the season on UW’s fourth opportunity of the night and sophomore forward Brendan Woods capitalized on its seventh, UW improved their meager power play from 9-of-90 with a 10 percent success rate to 11-of-97 with an 11.3 percent success rate.
Those two goals allowed Wisconsin to move ahead of none other than Penn State — who with a 10.89 success rate with the man-advantage now has the worst power play in the country.
Ending a three-game drought without a power play and scoring multiple goals on the man-advantage for the first time since Jan. 26 against Alaska-Anchorage, Eaves is hopeful Wisconsin can finally establish more consistency on the power play.
“When [the first power play unit] is together they can be pretty darn good for us,” Eaves said. “The other unit did some pretty good things too. I was told … that we created 20 shots on our power play and (Joseph) LaBate, (Brendan) Woods and (Nic) Kerdiles — they were a product of forcing a lot of shots on net for us.”
After slow start, offense explodes
While the final score read 5-0, Wisconsin used a strong final 40 minutes to get there.
After a long seven-day break, the Badgers struggled to find rhythm in the first period, managing only six shots on goal — matching up with Penn State’s six shots on goal.
A period later, Wisconsin commanded a 2-0 lead after putting 22 shots on net. They added 23 more and three more goals to close out the contest with a season-high 51 shots on net. It was the first time all season the Badgers passed the 50-shot mark; their previous game-high was 40 shots against Bemidji State Feb. 8.
“You always want more for yourself and your team,” senior defenseman John Ramage said. “We came out and did it. In the second and third periods we showed what we are capable of and really took it to them.”
That offensive effort was led by junior forward Tyler Barnes who put seven shots on net and notched a team-high four points on the night with a goal and three assists.
“I think a lot of that comes down to Mark and Nic,” Barnes said of his success. “How they’re playing and helping me out.”
Rumpel earns seventh career shutout
In his third straight start, sophomore goaltender Joel Rumpel staved off 22 Penn State shots on net en route to his fourth shutout of the season.
Late in the first period, Rumpel denied Penn State on a 3-on-2 effort. Losing the puck on the shot from the right circle, Rumpel had to turn around in the crease before he eventually found the puck underneath him.
Eaves lauded the effort as Penn State’s best scoring chance of the night and a game-saving moment on Rumpel’s part.
“He was in front of that puck,” Eaves said. “But you’re absolutely right, that was a big save for us.”
While Eaves can’t complain about the result, he did note Rumpel didn’t perform as up to par as he hoped, especially in light of a successful weekend against Minnesota the week before.
“He gets the shutout tonight, doesn’t have a lot of work,” Eaves said. “But we were pressing Joel after the game about some of his puck handling, it was not very good tonight. Oh, he got a shutout and everybody’s proud — I’m a little disappointed in him. He still got to keep working on his details … but he was good when the puck was in front of him.”