As the first period wound down, Rumpel gave up a juicy rebound allowing St. Cloud State a backdoor chance. As he went to move across the slot, his stick was forced out of his hand — which prevented the puck from crossing the goal line by centimeters.
It happened so fast Rumpel couldn’t quite explain what happened, but head coach Mike Eaves said it was a good break for his squad.
“It could have been a turning point in the game, no question about it,” Eaves said.
After the sure-to-remain-controversial save, No. 14 Wisconsin (21-12-7) went on to score three more goals for a 4-1 win over top-seeded, No. 7 St. Cloud State (23-15-1) earning a trip to the WCHA Final Five Championship game — and a chance for an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Tomorrow will mark the first time since 2000 and under Eaves the Badgers will compete for the Broadmoor Trophy.
In his post-game press conference, Eaves was quick to commend his sophomore goaltender who stopped 30 of SCSU’s 31 shots on net.
“He let us get out feet underneath us,” Eaves said. “He stopped some good scoring opportunities and I think as the game wore on we were able to get back to our game a little bit. The fact that Joel was playing so well maybe got in their heads a little bit.”
While the Badgers were the first on the board from on a Joseph LaBate shot from above the left circle that took a nice bounce before streaking past Ryan Faragher’s glove side, it was John Ramage’s second period, power-play goal that spelled victory for UW.
Working on Wisconsin’s first full power play of the game early in the second period, Ramage netted the go-ahead goal from the slot on a feed from freshman winger Nic Kerdiles. The senior defenseman’s goal gave Wisconsin a 2-1 lead at the 2:08 mark of the second period, only 25 seconds into the man-advantage.
Despite an abysmal 12.2 conversion rate on the power play headed into the game, the Badgers used the man-advantage effectively once again in the third period.
With a five-minute major penalty from SCSU sophomore defenseman Tim Daly, who was called for checking from behind and took a game misconduct, UW’s power play made quick work of the situation yet again as Kerdiles tipped in a Ramage shot from the point only 13 seconds into the man-advantage. Kerdiles’ goal gave the Badgers a 3-1 lead at the 10:29 mark of the third.
“They have a very simple mode of operandi,” Eaves said. “They get it back, they get the puck at the net and we have big bodies in front with Nic and (Brendan Woods). John (Ramage) has done a nice job of creating shooting lanes, getting the puck to the net. … They’ve been good for awhile for us.”
Kerdiles had a hand in three of UW’s four goals on the afternoon, with an assist on the first two and finally netting one of his own. His multi-point afternoon marked his tenth consecutive game with a point and his fourth consecutive multi-point game.
“I have ten games on some of these guys on the team,” Kerdiles said. “My legs should be a little more fresh than those guys. That’s why I pride myself on working hard out there, moving my feet all the time and just doing the little things like coach wants us me to do.”
While junior winger Tyler Barnes iced the game with an empty netter at the 18:49 mark of the third, it was Wisconsin’s defense that was able to keep St. Cloud State at bay.
As Rumpel made 30 saves on the afternoon, the Badgers blocked 18 Husky shots, closing up shooting lanes and limiting SCSU’s opportunities.
“At moments we thought we were pretty good in our own zone,” Eaves said. “We talked about taking away time and space … we had a couple holes in it but for the most part the guys did a nice job. It was a big part of our getting our feet back underneath us offensively.”
After the game a weary looking Bob Motzko, St. Cloud State head coach, put it simply: Wisconsin just got stronger as the game went on and his squad couldn’t overcome that.
“I really thought that as the game wore on they got stronger,” Motzko said. “We had our chances early in the game … they persevered through the 60 minutes. It’s kind of pretty simple today.”