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February 28, 2014 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Rumpel's Growth Propelling Badgers

Wisconsin Goalie Deserves Hobey Consideration

by Sam Obermyer/CHN Reporter

The last 15 months have been good for the Wisconsin Badgers. After struggling early on last season, the Badgers went 21-6-4 down the stretch and won the Broadmoor Trophy as the WCHA Final Five Champions.

This season, Wisconsin has carried that success over to the Big Ten Conference going 19-9-2 overall and 10-5-1 in the Big Ten, currently in second place.

A big reason for the Badgers success has been the play of junior goaltender Joel Rumpel.

"I've been a lot more confident out there. My team obviously helps out a lot with how good they play defensively in front of me to make me look good," Rumpel said.

"He is doing a lot of the little things well," said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves. "He's a big target, he is very athletic and moves well but he is doing a lot of the little things that the position requires of him. His rebound control has improved, his movement of the puck, getting out and making good decisions and he has got a level of confidence right now that for any goaltender is very big."

Going 16-4-1, Rumpel leads Big Ten goalies with a .936 save percentage, 1.83 goals-against average and .786 winning percentage.

"You take a look at his numbers and they are as good as anybody's," Eaves said. "I know for our team, there is a feeling of confidence when he is back there doing the things he is doing. It's almost if we do make a mistake, we don't panic because right now 93 or 94 percent of the time Joel is making the save."

Rumpel has staked a claim to the No. 1 spot between the pipes after splitting time with fellow junior goalie Landon Peterson the past couple of season. Eaves said Rumpel's improved play has dictated the decision to go with him as the No. 1 goalie and a player developing like Rumpel has over the years is what coaches hope to see from players.

"As a freshman there is growth, as a sophomore there is growth and usually I have noticed between their sophomore and junior year, when they come back, there can be a quantum leap because physically they mature, mentally and emotionally they have handled some life issues," Eaves said. "Usually we see some maturation around that time and that is what has happened for Joel. He has had a nice maturation in all of those areas which has allowed him to play at a higher level."

The competition with Peterson has helped push Rumpel to that higher level.

"We have a good relationship on and off the ice but on the ice it is a completive one and both of us know either one of us can steal the job from the other one on any given day," said Rumpel.

That is not to say this season has been without its challenges for Rumpel who missed a few weekends earlier in the year with an ankle sprain.

"I hadn't really been hurt really before so it was kind of somewhat new." Rumpel said. "One really good thing was Landon stepped up and kept playing well and got a few wins for our team. When I came back I knew I had to work extra hard to get back into the net and I think it ended up helping me more than anything."

A much less serious, more funny, challenge faced Rumpel last Saturday on his way to shutting out Michigan State. In the third period a Spartan shot shattered the webbing of his glove forcing Rumpel to use Peterson's glove for a few minutes until Rumpel's backup glove could be retrieved.

"It kind of woke me up a little bit if anything, it gets your blood going a little bit faster," Rumpel said. "I used Landon Peterson's glove for a couple of plays. I made one glove save that was a little sketchy, I almost fumbled it but then I got my backup glove from the dressing room a few minutes later."

When he is not focused on stopping pucks Rumpel is known for his interactions with the fans.

"It's just nice being able to give back a little smile or a high-five coming off the ice or in warm-ups," Rumpel said. "When I was a kid it went a long way and it's something that really sticks with you. That's something that players in the past I have done and made me want to have the chance and opportunity to make that impression on a kid."

Rumpel's uncle, Roy Schultz, also played goal for the Badgers and was an All-American in 1980.

"He came down earlier this season, him and his wife, to watch me play and it's was great to have him back down here," Rumpel said. "He will send me an email or text, he always watches at home with the Big Ten Network now. He will give me a little tibbit or good job or something I can work on so it's nice having him knowing the ropes and what he has been thorough here and helping me out along the way."

* * *

The victory over Michigan State on Saturday was a milestone for Eaves — his 250th as the Badgers head coach — and an event which ended up costing Rumpel the game puck.

"I wasn't very much aware of it," Eaves said. "Usually at the end games we give out a game puck. I asked assistant coach (Gary) Shuchuk for a game puck, I was going to give it to Joel Rumpel and Shuchuk says, 'I got this one, I'll get it,' and I say, 'OK, that's good.' So we get into the locker room and I'm expecting Shuchuk to hand out the puck and I said, 'Shuchuk, go ahead,' and he says, 'Actually I gave it to Frankie Simonelli, our captain,' and Frankie made the announcements about the 250th win and threw the puck at me. So it was a nice surprise."

With four games left before the Big Ten tournament the Badgers are hoping the success they enjoyed down the stretch last season can benefit them in this title run.

"There are only three guys missing from last year's team, so they have been there and they have been through it," Eaves said. "We can say what we need to say as coaches but the most effective words and thoughts that are shared are amongst the leadership in the locker room and what they tell each other, and because of our experience last year, I think it is a plus."

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