Posted-February 6th, 2014 11:54 pm
MADISON, Wis. – Even as the Wisconsin men’s hockey team won 10 of 11 home games in January and surged to the second spot in the Big Ten, a common criticism was that its resume lacked a season-defining win. Consider that void filled.
The Badgers (15-8-2, 6-4-1 B1G) made a triumphant return to the Kohl Center on Thursday night, ending border rival and top-ranked Minnesota’s (19-3-5, 8-1-2 B1G) 14-game unbeaten streak, 2-1, behind brilliant goaltending by Joel Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan) and a game-winner from Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, Wis.). The win was the 14th of the season at home for UW, tied for second-most in Kohl Center history.
“Our guys hung in there on a night when we weren’t playing very well and found a way to get a victory,” said head coach Mike Eaves. “There’s an old cliché in hockey and in sports that good teams find a way to win on nights they don’t play well. So we’ll deposit these points in the bank and our task tomorrow is to come back and play better at a higher level.”
McCabe nudged the Badgers ahead for good when he took a feed from Jedd Soleway (Vernon, British Columbia) on the right goal line, retreated to the right dot, and whistled a shot past Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead with 6:13 to go.
“Jake is a big-time player and he wants to be that guy,” Eaves said. “Jake is one of the guys on the team that we as a coaching staff look to and his teammates look to in big moments -- come up with big plays and he did that for us tonight and for that we’re thankful.”
The goal was more than Rumpel would need on a night where he held the Gophers to a single score on 32 shots to earn his 12th win of the season. Nevertheless, Minnesota made the finish interesting, pulling Wilcox and going on the power play with 28 seconds to play.
But as they had all night, the UW penalty kill rose to the occasion, stifling Minnesota’s man-advantage to preserve the upset. The stop made it 24-straight successful penalty kills for the Badgers, who also snapped a three-game scoreless drought of their own on the power play when Frankie Simonelli (Bensenville, Ill.) scored 5:03 into the game to give UW a 1-0 lead.
The one-goal advantage wouldn’t last for long, as Kyle Rau forced a turnover behind the Wisconsin net and fed Taylor Cammarata for the equalizer just 2:33 later. Despite numerous chances for both sides, neither team would find the net again until McCabe’s game-winner.
Much of the credit for the win has to go to Rumpel and the Wisconsin defense, which held Minnesota to a goal or less for just the fourth time in 27 outings.
Rumpel finished with 31 saves on 32 shots, while Wilcox managed 17 stops on 19 offerings. The Badger power play finished 1-for-1, while Minnesota was scoreless on four chances.
The Badgers and Gophers meet again on Friday at 8 p.m. for a game that will be televised live on BTN.