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Wisconsin sweeps to get to the Final Five, though the Badgers still have work to do to get an NCAA bid. Jefferson Dahl scored just under three minutes into the game to open the flood gates for the Badgers, who scored three goals in the first eight minutes of the first period to take a 3-1 lead. “'Great start' is the first thing we write (on the board in the locker room) because stats tell us that the team that scores the first goal has the winning percentage in its favor,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “To score three (goals) like that is an explosion for us. That great start put (Minnesota-Duluth) in a position they couldn’t get back from.” ... “To finally get back to the WCHA Final Five is huge for the guys,” John Ramage (St. Louis) said. “We know we can be there. We knew we could be there the past couple seasons and didn’t get the job done. ... We got the job done this year and we’re excited to go make some noise.”
Eaves said the whole team was lifted by the quick early goal from Dahl. “The bench jumped about a foot and a half when he scored,” Eaves said. “They know how many good things (Dahl’s line) does, and to get a little bit of a reward for that was pleasing to the team and pleasing to those guys because they do work so hard.”
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Wisconsin kept its recent strong play going, taking Game 1. The win puts the Badgers right on the cusp of the NCAAs. “We’ve been playing playoff hockey since November when we started the season 1-7-2,” Wisconsin defenseman John Ramage 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.” Ramage had a power-play goal and assist.
Wisconsin also kept down the fourth-best power play in the nation in Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs were 0-for-3 with the man advantage, after entering the game having converted 14 of its last 32 (43.8 percent). Mark Zengerle's empty netter capped a three-point night. “We needed his offense,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “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.”
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Nebraska-Omaha's fade down the stretch reached its culmination with this defeat, its first shutout loss of the season. It sends the Mavs right out of a home-ice bid, something it had been heading towards with this losing stretch, and now has come to pass with another two losses. Read more about this game in our WCHA blog.
Minnesota was unable to finish off the sweep, despite 40 shots on net. Jack Hendrickson scored a late goal for UMD to tie the game and it stayed that way. Like the three-point weekends had by New Hampshire and Quinnipiac, it does little damage in the big picture, though the Gophers go into their final two WCHA regular-season weekends two points behind St. Cloud State for first place. Adam Wilcox was strong all weekend in net for the Gophers, as usual, and his 35 saves Saturday were a career/season high.
Remarkably, Duluth went all of February without a win, though this tie felt like a pretty good accomplishment after all that. “Through the first 10 minutes we weathered some storms and got some momentum,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin told the Duluth News-Tribune. “To come in here against a team that is pretty damn good, we made them earn everything they got. We played well and (goalie Matt McNeely) gave us a chance.”
Minnesota coach Don Lucia was more stoic about it: “UMD found its power play this weekend, McNeely made some good saves, (UMD) blocked shots, and overall it was a hard-fought series. It was pretty even.”
Minnesota State has quietly sneaked up on the field this year. Maybe it's because the Mavs haven't done well the last few years, and didn't have a splashy start. And you look at the standings, and they don't look that high in the WCHA. Well, look again. MSU is now tied for fifth, and only one point out of third. And, the Mavs are No. 10 in the Pairwise. The 18 wins Minnesota State now has puts it just three away from its all-time high since joining Division I. It's been a remarkable first season for Mike Hastings, similar to what Norm Bazin did last year in Lowell. But Hastings knew he had plenty of talent to work with, and it's showing. Eriah Hayes had a hat trick in this game, including two third-period power-play goals. And sophomore forward Matt Leitner had three assists and now has ten goals and 23 assists for 33 points to lead the Mavericks in scoring.
UMD dropped to 9th in the league. “Our first 10 minutes wasn’t very good and I was very disappointed in some dumb penalties we took,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin told the Duluth News-Tribune. “We gave up way too many easy goals (in the series) and we weren’t very hungry around their net.”
After a terrible seven-game unbeaten string, CC has at least started moving back in the right direction, getting splits the last two weekends. William Rapuzzi scored his 13th in Saturday's rout. Joe Howe played well in both games on the weekend in net for the Tigers, even in Friday's 3-2 loss.
Michigan Tech was unable to follow up its GLI success, getting swept on the weekend. Phoenix Copley's breakthrough back-to-back shutouts in the tournament were followed with a tough 1-0 loss Friday, and then this one turned more ugly. ... UMD was thrilled to finally get its top scorers back on the scoresheet, including freshman Tony Cameranesi. “We did a lot of great things as a team, it was one of our stronger games,” said Cameranesi, to the Duluth News-Tribune. “You get a little frustrated when you’re not scoring, but as long as you’re getting chances, you don’t mind, and we were getting chances. And you know eventually they’ll start going in.”
A couple of teams still looking for consistency this season, get a fitting split of the weekend. Andrew Walsh, who hadn't started in three weeks, came up big for Bemidji on Saturday, making 33 saves to preserve the win. UMD continued a pattern of playing worse in the second game of a two-game weekend -- now 0-6-2 in that scenario on the season. “Overall we might’ve played better (Saturday) than Friday, but it ended up to be just an average weekend,” UMD center Justin Crandall told the Duluth News-Tribune. “We ended up getting frustrated because Bemidji was playing such hard-nosed defense. We need a mind set that we have to step up and finish the series.”
Danny Kristo slid a backhand pass to Mark MacMillian, who one-timed the pass for the game-winning goal with 34 seconds left in overtime. Kristo had capped a three-way passing play with senior center Corban Knight for the game-tying goal at 5:53 of the third period. His feed on that play set up MacMillian. MacMillan was just moved to the line with Kristo and Knight tonight. It proved to be a magical formula, leading UND to its first Saturday night win in five tries. There was also a second-period fracas, which you can see in the video. ... "We had a game plan right from the start, maybe we didn't execute that so well in the first period," MacMillan said. "After the first intermission, our goal was to win the second and third, then if we needed to, win in overtime, and that's exactly what we did."
A power-play goal from Michael Young in the third period gave the Mavericks the win, their third in a row. UMD fell behind 2-0, but had two power-play goals late in the first. But then UMD had two players tossed from the game for major penalties, and it set the Bulldogs back a bit. "Aside from the start, I thought we had a pretty good game," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. "I like the way our guys battled back. We've got to finish our opportunities."
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