Badgers improve despite losing opener; goalies start strong

first_imgFreshman goaltender Joel Rumpel picked up his first victory in goal in his first career start Saturday night. Wisconsin defeated Northern Michigan, 3-2.[/media-credit]Head coach Mike Eaves said it would be a process and through two games, that process is already starting to take shape.In their season-opening series at the Kohl Center, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team split the weekend 1-1 against Northern Michigan.Both nights, the Badgers found themselves down 2-0 before coming back to tie the game. Saturday night, junior forward Derek Lee scored a wrap-around goal with four minutes left in the game, giving the Badgers a 3-2 win. Friday night, the game-winning goal looked exactly the same, but it was scored with only 3.7 seconds left in overtime. UW had no chance for a second comeback, losing the season opener 3-2.Given their youth and inexperience, the Badgers played a rough game one. While it showed moments of potential, especially in tying the game up with a late comeback in the third period on Friday, UW struggled to finish plays and ultimately couldn’t get the puck in the net as a result.“It played out as one might think it played out,” Eaves said Friday. “There were some darn good things and there were some things we need to work on. That’s about what you would expect.”Wisconsin stumbled early, but in every subsequent period of play, UW looked stronger and more consistent as a whole.“We just all made mistakes,” junior defenseman John Ramage said Friday. “Not only the youth, but everyone, just kind of knocking the rust off. There were times when we were not very good in our own zone or we could have done things better.”“It’s kind of like practice,” Lee said Saturday. “As a group, we’re getting better. We’re becoming more comfortable with one another, we’re building our systems and everything’s slowly coming into one another.”The Badgers seemed to take the first game for granted. They looked like a team that expected the win to come easy and instead found themselves having to fight back even for a chance at a tie. Friday’s effort was the definition of a young team.But Saturday, things got better. UW still went down 2-0 in the first period, but the Badgers didn’t let the Wildcats get any offensive momentum after that. There were some close calls, but from the start of the second period, UW improved and took control of the game.“We did many more good things tonight,” Eaves said Saturday. “It was nice to see the line of [Mark] Zengerle, [Michael] Mersch and [Tyler] Barnes play at the level that they’re capable of. They were disappointing in their effort last night. … Every line played solid … we just did multiple more things tonight better than last night which contributed to the win.”A tale of two goaliesBefore the series, Eaves had two freshman goalies and a third that sat behind Scott Gudmandson and Brett Bennett for two seasons.In the days leading up to the game, Eaves still hadn’t made a decision as to the starter, but he knew he was going to split the series with two goalies, similar to what he’s done in the past with Gudmandson and Bennett.While freshman Joel Rumpel got the win this weekend, fellow freshman Landon Peterson played just as well.“I thought [Peterson] was very solid,” Eaves said Friday. “He gave us a chance to win the game. I think one of the telltale signs about a goalie, he’s got poise and confidence out there. If the puck was dumped in, he was quick to get out and stop it. He made good decisions, good passes. He was square to the puck all night and did a nice job. He gave us a chance to win the game or get a tie.”Peterson faced only 19 shots on goal from NMU Friday compared to the 33 Rumpel faced the next night. Rumpel was tested more often but gave up two quick goals. Although he didn’t face as many shots, Peterson also had multiple defensive breakdowns in front of him, all of which led to goals.But regardless, in their first collegiate starts, both freshmen showed poise and promise.“They both played solid,” junior defenseman Justin Schultz said. “You can’t ask much more than that. They kept us in both games and I was comfortable playing in front of both of them, and it was good to see them in their first games.”last_img