Final Five Recap - Bucky Riding a Tsunami of Swagger

WCHA finishes the season off with a bang in St. Paul.

And let me tell you, the Final Five party did not stop all weekend.

Now I know that many people would have preferred to see the Gophers and North Dakota play for the Broadmoor trophy on Saturday night, but they were beat, quite early actually.

I'm going to do my best to recap each of the game's that took place during the final five, although please excuse the detail, as I remember some games better than others.

- Thursday -

Wisconsin and Minnesota State kicked off our tournament in what was sure to be a fantastic game.  The way Wisconsin was playing as of recently and how Mike Hasting had his team running couldn't have possibly equalled anything less than a great battle in the opening round.

WCHA goalie champion, Stephon Williams took net for the Mavericks while Badger netminder Joel Rumpel stood across the ice from him.  Both goalies had been playing hot up to this point, so I assumed it would be a rather low-scoring game.

Wisconsin's Tyler Barnes put the Badgers up 1-0 with only a minute and three seconds of game played off one hell of snipe that beat MSU's Williams  Barnes had chance going in alone and beat Williams glove side.

The Badger's had momentum flowing until Joseph Labate took a tripping call that sent the Badgers to test their penalty kill.  Minnesota State was moving the puck well until a Jefferson Dahl ended up flying down the right side with Maverick Matt Leitner in front of him.  Dahl tossed the puck on net as Leitner had seemingly pushed him out of harm's way but Williams was either caught off-guard or completely fell asleep because the soft toss Dahl put on net slipped by the freshman netminder.

At this point, Wisconsin was surging.  Once again Bucky pinned the Mavericks down low; Barnes won a battle along the boards, squeezing the puck out to John Ramage.  Ramage then found Mark Zengerle posted alone in front of the net, who sent a quick pass to Nic Kerdiles who stood 8 feet to his right, blasting the puck by Williams.

All of Wisconsin's scoring had taken place in the first half of the first period.  The Badgers were able to storm into the locker room after the first period up 3-0.

The Mavericks came out with a little more intensity, but a blocked shot resulted in another shorthanded tally for UW's Jefferson Dahl.  Dahl was able to pick up the blocked shot and storm down the ice.  He hit Jake McCabe high-slot who passed it right back to Dahl, then putting it over Williams who stacked his pads in confusion.

Down 4-0 now, the Mavericks needed to act fast.  Jean-Paul Lafontaine sent a nice pass across the slot over to a waiting Zach Palmquist who was able to slap the puck by Joel Rumpel, putting the Mavericks on the board, finally, 4-1.

Tyler Barnes found himself battling with MSU's Jon Jutzi, both barreling down the ice toward a waiting Stephon Williams.  Barnes skated in towards the net as Jutzi gave a last physical attempt at knocking him off the puck.  Barnes lost balance between Jutzi's hit and Williams trying to poke the puck away and tumbled over, the puck sliding behind Williams into the net.

Williams, who was visibly exhausted at this point, lay on the ice.  He had taked a skate to the head during the play and had to be helped of the ice, making way for senior Phil Cook to take over.

Eriah Hayes was able to get the Mavericks their second goal of the night.  Trailing 5-1, Lafontaine found Hayes in front of the net who threw a shot on net, beating Rumpel to close the gap 5-2.

Frankie Simonelli and Joeseph Labate both added goals to Wisconsin's total, finishing the game 7-2.
"Obviously not the start we wanted," said Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings. "I'm not dissapointed in our team's push back for the entire sixty minutes.  We had a couple guys go out and I thought we continued to battle."
"I don't think that anyone would have expected the number of goals we scored," said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves. "The pucks went in the net for us tonight, and in retrospect looking back at past outings, we thought as a team we could have been better in some areas." 
Game Notes -
  • Minnesota State looked to be exhausted, standing no chance to Wisconsin's 1-1-3.
  • Minnesota State's powerplay scored twice off nine chances (22.2%), gave up 2 SHGs.
  • Wisconsin went 0/4 on man-advantage attempts.
  • Minnesota State did in fact make the NCAA tournament even with the loss.
  • Minnesota State outshot Wisconsin 40-27.

Colorado College and North Dakota squared off for Thursday night's game.  The Xcel Energy Center was filled with green, as one would expect knowing North Dakota.  Although there weren't many CC fans, the arena grew loud for the Tigers through fans who aren't exactly seeing eye-to-eye with UND.

UND's Drake Caggiula kicked off the action with a charging penalty, giving way to CC's powerplay.  Cody Bradley was able to find the puck off the boards and head towards the net, pushing the puck backwards as he skated by.  Rylan Schwartz then took advantage of the loose puck, shoving into the open net and giving CC the early 1-0 lead.

Later in the First, UND capitalized by taking the puck from the Tigers in their own zone.  Carter Rowney hit Grimaldi in the slot, who slid the puck over to Caggiula putting it by CC goalie Joe Howe.  A pretty passing play that resulted in the game tied 1-1.

With 10 seconds remaining in the first, Joe Howe let in his "softest" goal of the tournament.  UND was fueling the momentum after coming off a big penalty kill; Kristo had taken the puck around the net, walked out front and blasted a wrister by Howe, giving North Dakota the 2-1 lead at the end of 1.

About halfway through the second, Alexander Krushelnyski scored a shorthanded goal after a perfect feed from Rylan Schwartz after winning a battle along the boards.  Not only did Krushelnyski prove how fancy he is by going glove side, but he also tied the game at 2s.

To kick off the third period, UND got caught lazy after CC through the puck up ice, going off of Scott Winkler's skate and landing perfectly on Hunter Fejes stick.  Fejes released a wrister with UND d-man Nick Mattson standing in his way.  The puck flew by Mattson and then Saunders to put the CC Tigers up 3-2.

With under 8-minutes remaining in the game, Caggiula entered CC's zone only to be immediately stood up be waiting defenders.  The puck squeezed out to Colten St. Claire who tossed the puck goal while Caggiula buried the rebound, tying the game at 3-3 and sending the game into OT.

It took CC's Peter Stoykewych 4 minutes and 52 seconds before he was able to give the Tigers the overtime win.  Stoykewych rifled a wrister towards the net that bounced off a UND defender, deflecting by Saunders for the win.
"If you would have said on January 5th that we'd be playing and winning on Thursday night over North Dakota in St. Paul, I would have said you're crazy," said CC coach Scott Owens.
"It’s been lose or go home for the last four games now so we’ve been playing in that desperation mode that’s helped our game,” CC captain William Rapuzzi said. “We’re still not happy with where we are, and we still want to keep moving and make a run at this tournament."
Game Notes - 
  • North Dakota's Broadmoor streak ends at three.
  • UND's powerplay struggled going 0/6.
  • Saunder's game was a little off, looked as though he had trouble seeing the puck.
  • UND outshot CC 32-23.

- Friday -

St. Cloud and Wisconsin got the ball rolling on Friday in a much anticipated game, especially for the Huskies who took home the MacNaughton this year.  St. Cloud State had recently split a series with the Badgers to finish off WCHA regular season play, so they had a feel for what the Badgers were bringing to the table.

It took until half the period had ticked away, but the first goal was scored.  Wisconsin's Joseph LaBate took a pretty weak shot from up top that must have caught Husky goalie Ryan Faragher out of position, because the puck was able to make it past him, giving the Badgers the 1-0 lead.

Husky senior Ben Hanowski answered a few minutes later to tie the game, 1-1.  On the powerplay, Dowd led the charge down the ice and veered off left, giving him time to find Hanowski coming into the slot, already wound-up to blast the puck by Rumpel.

The most controversial play happened before the period ended.  SCSU's Jimmy Murray and Nic Dowd were racing down the ice together, with Badgers in front.  Murray took a shot from the circle off of Rumpel's left.  The puck trinkled to the front of the net in the midst of chaos, and more importantly away from Rumpel who had went out left to meet Murray.  Dowd was able to get the rebound and fire a shot on an open net, but Rumpels stick, that was sailing through the air, redirected the puck away from the net.

Now the WCHA handled this very poorly.  First off, they reviewed a play that was technically not reviewable.  Although it is against the rules for a stick to be thrown, a call was not made for that.  Officials are not allowed to review plays that may have resulted in a penalty.  Had the officials made the call, either a penalty or penalty shot would have been given to Nic Dowd.  But it was too late.  To play it off, the officials ruled a "no-goal" after reviewing the play, which was pretty evident as the puck was nowhere near crossing the red line.

No goal resulted, and there was no penalties given out, but it was mishandled by the WCHA officials.  Had they got the call right, and say SCSU scores, they would have taken the lead and potentially let some of the wind out of UW's sails.  Or, Wisconsin still could have won.  Either way it was a miss-call but everyone did in fact, survive.

Wisconsin was able to score the only goal of the second period, which put them up 2-1.  The powerplay goal really emphasized how well the Badgers have been working together.  Kerdiles entered the zone, drawing Huskies down with him, allowing him to place a perfect pass to captain John Ramage who blasted a shot over Ryan Faragher's glove as he was level at the same time by Ben Hanowski.

Nic Kerdiles was able to tally another point on the night, giving the Badgers the 3-1 lead.  LaBate sauced the puck up top to Ramage who rocketed a shot on a goal, but Kerdiles tipped the puck under Faragher's left leg for the goal.

Tyler Barnes had the dagger with 1:11 left, putting an empty net goal away.  The empty netter ended the game, 4-1.
"At first we felt pretty good about where we were at," said SCSU's Drew LeBlanc. "We were putting pressure on them and getting some chances to score."
"I thought Joel (Rumpel) stopped some really good scoring opportunities," said UW coach Mike Eaves. "We started to get things going and scored some goals and the victory was there at the end."
Game Notes - 

  • Wisconsin scored at least one goal in each period (1-1-2).
  • St. Cloud State won 34 of 59 faceoffs.
  • SCSU outshot UW 31-21.

Minnesota and Colorado College dropped the puck in Friday's night game.  To no surprise, the Xcel Energy Center was packed with maroon and gold and loud.  Knowing North Dakota and St. Cloud lost, made Minnesota's hopes for the Broadmoor a little bit better.

The Gophers came out with fire.  The put pressure on the Tigers, who were really starting to show the fatigue of playing so many games.  First half play was very physical and intense, but resulted in zero goals.

It wasn't until the second period until the scoring began.  Rylan Schwartz skated down the right side of the boards, undressed Minnesota d-man Jake Parenteau with a tricky toe-drag and beat goalie Adam Wilcox over his blocker with a wrister to put CC up 1-0.

Under four minutes later, CC scored again off a Gopher turnover.  Krushelnyski poked the poke from Mark Alt as he was try to break out of the zone, landing right on the stick of Charlie Taft.  Taft then snapped a shot that beat Adam Wilcox, slipping through the 5-hole and giving CC the 2-0 lead.

Colorado College went on to win the game 2-0, even as Minnesota pulled Wilcox toward the end.  CC's Joe Howe had emerged as the player of the game for making incredible saves in each period.  The Gophers were stunned and the WCHA was begging ticket holders to come back for the championship on Saturday.
"Joe Howe gave them the kind of goaltending you need at a time like this," explained Minnesota coach Don Lucia. "Usually, when you give up two goals, you should be in good position to win the game."
“It’s such a backstop for us,” said Owens about his goaltender Joe Howe. “It gives everybody confidence that allows us to take some chances and do some things.  You just know you’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
Game Notes -

  • Minnesota outshot CC 35-20.
  • The Gophers went 0/4 with the man-advantage.
  • Joe Howe earns a shutout and stops all 35 shots.

- Saturday -

Wisconsin and Colorado College were the teams that remained standing in the end.  Colorado College had played six games in the last nine days at this points while Wisconsin had played five.  One can only imagine the amount of fatigue and mental aches these guys were playing with, but for both of these teams, to move on they needed to win.

When the puck dropped, Wisconsin floored it.  They pushed the Tigers deep into there own zone and forced CC goalie Joe Howe to show his presence early in the game.  With under a minute remaining in the first period, Frankie Simonelli blasted a shot from the point that Nic Kerdiles redirected into Howe's pads.  The puck bounced off his leg and Tyler Barnes was able to bury it, giving the Badgers the 1-0 lead heading into the 1st intermission.

The Badgers headed back out onto the ice still sizzling from the previous period.  This was evident because Jake McCabe tossed another puck towards the net in which Sean Little tipped by Howe to give the Badgers the 2-0 lead.

Rylan Schwartz wasn't going to let CC go without a fight, though.  He flew up the boards and sent an amazing pass towards the net to Charlie Taft, who directed a shot that skipped by UW goalie Joel Rumpel, cutting Wisconsin's lead 2-1.

Badger captain John Ramage responded by driving hard to the net with a shot, giving Kerdiles a chance to finish by tossing the puck into the back of the net.  The goal gave UW the 3-1 lead and also extended Kerdiles scoring-streak to 11 games.

Right after Howe stoned Barnes on a breakaway chance, Schwartz turned around and took it in all alone on Rumpel, finding a hole in Rumpel's wall and allowing the Tigers to skate into the second intermission down 3-2.

The third period really showed how exhausted both teams were.  It wasn't until late in the game that CC made a very good effort in trying to catch Rumpel off his game, but by then it was too late.

The Wisconsin Badgers were crowned WCHA champions and earned a bid into the NCAA tourney next weekend.  A first for Badger coach Mike Eaves and Broadmoor trophy for the first time since 1998 for the school.
“We were tired, our D-crops was tired,” said CC coach Scott Owens. “And this game was a different style.  Wisconsin is so dialed in to their defensive system, and they execute it so tightly, we were always a step behind.  But I’m very, very proud of our guys.”

“It could have been a different game if we didn’t score first,” said Eaves. “Congratulations to CC.  They had a lot of heart and soul, and they put it all out there.”
“Joel’s nickname is Sunshine,” said Eaves. “He’s got the perfect goaltender attitude because he remains calm when people are flying all around him.”

Game Notes - 
  • Wisconsin's powerplay went 0/4, struggled to hold the zone.
  • Badgers looked very good defensively, especially penalty kill.
  • Colorado College's Joe Howe played outstanding yet again.

WCHA All-Tournament Team:

F - Nic Kerdiles (UW)
F - Tyler Barnes (UW)
F - Rylan Schwartz (CC)
D - Peter Stoykewych (CC)
D - John Ramage (UW)
G - Joel Rumpel (UW)

Final Five MVP - G - Joel Rumpel (UW)

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