Posted_March 15th, 2013 11:33 pm
MADISON, Wis. -- It was business as usual for Wisconsin (18-12-7) opening the WCHA playoffs as the team earned a 3-1 win over Minnesota Duluth (14-18-5) to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series Friday at Kohl Center.
Opening the playoffs at home for the first time since 2010 was unfamiliar, but the Badgers have faced a number of these do-or-die moments to reach this stage.
“We’ve been playing playoff hockey since November when we started the season 1-7-2,” John Ramage (St. Louis) said. “It’s just another game. That’s just kind of the mentality we have. We know exactly what we need to do to win and we got the job done tonight.”
Getting the job done individually was Ramage, who scored a power-play goal and tallied an assist in a two-point night for the senior defenseman. Ramage was one of three Badgers who finished with multi-point nights, as Mark Zengerle (Rochester, N.Y.) recorded a goal and two assists, while Nic Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif.) scored and assisted for two points.
The Badgers came out with momentum and pressure early, outshooting the Bulldogs 8-to-1 midway through the first period, but Minnesota Duluth got on the board first. Dan DeLisle was left alone in front of the net on a UMD rush and finished off a play at 7:38 period to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
Wisconsin responded in the second period, as the three multi-point Badgers worked together to get Kerdiles a redirect score in front of net. After Wisconsin won the offensive-zone faceoff, Ramage took the puck quickly toward the top of the zone, fed Zengerle near the blue line, who then took a long shot. Kerdiles was in front of the net to redirect the shot and tie the game, 1-1, at the 6:21 mark.
Giving Minnesota Duluth all it could handle, and then some, was the line of Ryan Little (Fond du Lac, Wis.), Jefferson Dahl (Eau Claire, Wis.) and Sean Little (Fond du Lac, Wis.), which went to work throughout the game and kept the puck deep in the zone of Duluth.
“They wore them down,” Ramage said of the Little-Dahl-Little line. “They had a couple shifts that were a minute and 30 seconds that were just grinding them down. That wears on a defenseman. Mentally, it really wears you down too.”
Wisconsin also kept down the fourth-best power play in the nation in Minnesota Duluth, as the Bulldogs ended the night 0-for-3 on the man advantage. Duluth entered the night having converted 14 of its last 32 (43.8 percent) power plays.
“This time of year you can’t lose and we want to bring our best each and every night,” Dahl said. “It was kind of an emphasis all week to move our feet and get the puck behind the [defense]. Just outworking them down low created the scoring chances and it seemed like we were getting more at the net tonight.”
The Badgers reached the net again at the 15:31 mark of the second period, as Ramage used a screen by Brendan Woods (Yorba Linda, Calif.) to tally with a point shot on the power play. Kerdiles and Zengerle helped set up the play, which gave Wisconsin its first lead of the game at 2-1.
Zengerle finished off his three-point night and notched a score of his own with 22 seconds left in the game, launching a shot from deep in his own zone into the empty net of Minnesota Duluth to give the Badgers a 3-1 lead and all but seal the win.
“We needed his offense,” UW Head Coach Mike Eaves said of Zengerle. “One of the responsibilities he has, or the expectations that we have for him, is to help produce offense for us and he was in on every goal tonight. The empty-netter was a goal scorer’s goal, an offensive player’s goal.
“This time of year, to have an offensive guy feeling it from the inside out is a good thing for us. ”
Present in the net throughout the night for Wisconsin was Joel Rumpel, who recorded 26 saves and allowed just one goal to improve to 12-8-4 on the season and his second career playoff win.
“They’re going to be rejuvenated, get back to work and give us their best game (tomorrow),” Ramage said. “This is do or die for them. We know exactly what they’re going to give us. We’re going to have to keep fighting and do what we did tonight to get the win.”
Wisconsin and Minnesota Duluth face off again in a potential elimination game Saturday night at the Kohl Center. Opening faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT).