Feb. 17, 2013
Chicago, Ill. - The shots came at a fast and furious pace in the first period, 15 in all. While the Badgers seemed to be searching for a rhythm, Minnesota came out on fire to start the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field. But there in the Wisconsin net stood Joel Rumpel (and his hat) denying each Gopher chance and keeping UW in the game.
“Joel was given the game puck by the team,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. “His performance in the first period allowed us to get or feet underneath us.”
While his play made a definite statement in that scoreless opening frame, fans watching the game at home on Big Ten Network couldn’t help but notice the fashion statement Rumpel was making on the ice. On top of his goalie mask sat a winter hat, red and white speckled with a large, fuzzy red ball sitting on top. Outdoor hockey is supposed to be about taking the players back to their roots. Nothing said it better than #Rumpelshat (a brief trending topic on Twitter).
“Like coach said he kept us in the game in the first period,” Sean Little said. “We didn’t help him out much. He stood on his head in the first.”
Taking their cue from Rumpel and his hat, the rest of his Badgers teammates came out on fire after the first intermission. With ice conditions dictating a simpler approach to the game, UW focused on getting pucks on net. And after managing just six shots on goal in the first period, Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox faced 10 in the second.
The game was still scoreless, though, until freshman defenseman Kevin Schulze’s shot from the point trickled past Wilcox at the 13:03 mark. Brendan Woods, who seemed to be all over the place, made a great play to keep the puck in the offensive zone and get it to Schulze, who just tried to put his shot on net. It got through a bunch of traffic in front and gave the Badgers the all-important first goal.
It also opened the floodgates a little. The Badgers have failed to score three goals in 20 of their games this season. Today, it would take them just 3:19 to tally three scores. A little over a minute after Schulze’s goal, senior John Ramage followed his formula by putting the puck on net from the point. This time, it deflected off a Gopher player and behind Wilcox. A minute after that, Sean Little banged in a rebound off Jake McCabe’s long shot and before the stunned Gophers knew what his them, UW was up 3-0.
“It was an explosive period for us in terms of goal scoring,” Eaves said.
After that explosion, the third period came down to more Rumpel. With the Badgers playing possession hockey and not taking many chances, Minnesota outshot UW 11-3 in the final stanza. But time and again, Rumpel came up with a big stop.
“A lot of times I say, it’s not necessarily how many saves you make but when you make them,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said.
Well Rumpel had both quality and quantity, registering 36 stops in the game. While Rumpel propelled UW to victory, the Badgers hope this win can lead to bigger and better things. In 2006, after beating Ohio State in the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic at Lambeau Field, Wisconsin won 10 of its final 14 games on the way to an NCAA title. In 2010, UW defeated Michigan in the Culver’s Camp Randall Hockey Classic then won 12 of 15 games en route to the NCAA title game.
“This weekend was huge for us,” Ramage said. “Obviously Friday night we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. To battle back today in this atmosphere I think it’s going to be huge for us moving forward. We’ve got a big couple of series coming up for us and we’re really looking forward to this end of the season.”
“We’re in the dog days of the second half of the WCHA (schedule) and to have an event like this becomes an emotional energizer,” Eaves said. “The other experiences have told us that. You can use this energy to springboard you down the back stretch and hopefully it will do that for us.”