Although Badgers aren't like cats with 9 lives, they are tough to put away. At least in hockey.
Wisconsin (21-12-7) is now one win away from winning the Broadmoor Trophy after defeating St. Cloud 4-1 at the Xcel Energy Center. They will face the winner of Minnesota/Colorado College for the WCHA Tournament championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament; a tough thing to imagine back in November when the Badgers were 1-7-2 .
"They're just dialed in right now," St. Cloud State (23-15-1) head coach Bob Motzko said after the game. "I didn't think we played that poorly. They make it very difficult for you to score on them."
Wisconsin jumped out to a 1-0 lead 10:46 into the game when Joseph LaBate shot the puck from the point past Huskies goalie Ryan Faragher. It wasn't a hard shot but fooled the goalie. St. Cloud State, however, came back four minutes later to tie the game on the power play. Junior center Nic Dowd (LA Kings draft pick) set up Ben Hanowski (Pittsburgh Penguins) blasts a rocke through the slot past Rumpel, who made 30 saves.
"I think the fact that Joel is playing so well may have gotten in their heads," Mike Eaves
It was the only one the Badgers goalie let in despite some controversy. Dowd had a chance to make it 2-1 with 2:05 remaining in the first when his tap-in was saved by Rumpel's stick. Although it appeared that the stick might have been intentionally thrown, it was ruled that a SCSU player knocked the stick out of his hands.
That was the closest St. Cloud State got.
Although the Huskies came out of the gate strong in the second period, Taylor Johnson took a hooking penalty 1:43 into the middle frame. Wisconsin needed only 25 seconds to pull ahead. John Ramage, the recipient of a five minute major for charging yesterday, scored in the slot and then took a hit for his trouble like a NFL Quarterback.
Both teams had chances as the game went on. St. Cloud State out-shot the Badgers 15-5 in the second period yet they had the same number of grade A shots as the Huskies struggled to move the puck on their own power play. Passes across the point were booed by the 16,555 fans inside the Xcel Energy Center. Still, freshmen Jonny Brodzinski and Dowd made Rumpel work.
That eventually paid off for Wisconsin when Huskies defenseman Tim Daly was called for checking from behind with 9:44 left and given a game misconduct. The Badgers needed 11 seconds to score when Nic Kerdiles (Anaheim Ducks) finally beat Ryan Faragher, who made 17 saves, by tipping a shot from Ramage to give them a 3-1 lead over the top-seeded Huskies.
Tyler Barnes added an empty netter with 1:11 left to seal the game for Wisconsin.
With the win, Wisconsin sits in 16th in the Pariwise. They likely will need to win tomorrow night after Canisius defeated Niagara and guaranteed that at least one automatic bid would come out of Atlantic Hockey.
At the same time, St. Cloud State currently finds themselves 13th in the Pairwise as the result of a 3-5 non-conference record. Despite sharing the MacNaughton Cup with Minnesota, the Huskies are in as Motzko puts it, "bubble trouble."
"We truly hope we get to play again," Motzko said. "Our body of work puts us there."
Follow Nate on Twitter @gopherstate.