Men’s hockey goes through tough winter break stretch

first_imgIt’s been an up-and-down stretch of games for the Wisconsin men’s hockey team this winter, seeing one of its worst losses in program history yet one of its biggest wins of the season. The Badgers started their past five games with hosting the U.S. National Under-18 team in an exhibition match Dec. 12. Considering Wisconsin’s youth and high number of underclassmen on their roster, it was a rare opportunity for the Badgers to play a team younger than them.However, the Badgers were unable to take advantage of their youthful opponent and lost the game 4-1. UW took a 1-0 lead into the third period, but conceded four goals to the U-18 team over the final 20 minutes of play.After the loss, Wisconsin was able to get away for a holiday break before picking things back up a couple weeks later. While Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said he was disappointed in their 4-1 loss, he felt his team could use the break to take a step back and hit the reset button.“I’m glad we have a break because it’s a time to re-boot the program,” Eaves said at the time. “Re-boot the computer here a little bit. They need to finish strong in school, go home and enjoy their family, and we’ll re-boot the program when we get back. We’re not where we want to be, we still have place and growth to have, and we’ll come back and do that.”Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the Badgers did not get the response they hoped for when they returned from their holiday break Jan. 2 for a two-game home series against Michigan Tech, who entered the game ranked fifth in the nation.In their first game of 2015, Wisconsin suffered their worst loss of the season, losing 8-1 to Michigan Tech. Michigan Tech’s eight goals were the most the Badgers had ever given up in a single game at the Kohl Center.Despite the blowout loss, Wisconsin redshirt senior defenseman Chase Drake said they were not going to let the game continue to faze them and vowed they would bounce back.“I think it’s just a minor set back,” Drake said. “We have to stay positive regardless of the outcome tonight. We’re just really looking forward tomorrow.”Eaves echoed the positive attitude following the loss, saying he was confident they would play better in the second game against Michigan Tech.“They are certainly not that much better than us,” Eaves said. “By playing tonight, we’ll get up to speed and be better tomorrow night.”Eaves was exactly right, as the Badgers responded to one of their worst performances by coming back and playing their best game of the season the next night. In the second game of the series, Wisconsin upset fifth-ranked Michigan Tech in a low-scoring 2-0 battle.Badger goaltender Joel Rumpel was pivotal in Wisconsin’s upset victory, recording one of the greatest goal-tending performances in recent memory. Michigan Tech dominated the shots on goal 47-19 and put pressure on the Badgers all night, but Rumpel came up big time after time, on his way to a career-high 47-save performance.Rumpel said he and his team were determined to come back strong after losing big the night before. Rumpel’s performance in goal earned high praise from teammate Morgan Zulinick.“Incredible. That’s the only way I can describe it,” Zulinick said. “[Rumpel] was amazing all night.”After Wisconsin’s series with Michigan Tech, the road ahead did not get any easier for the Badgers. For the second straight weekend, Wisconsin played a two-game home series against a top-five nationally ranked team, this time against the second-ranked Boston Terriers.Wisconsin kicked off the series with BU by continuing their improved play.  The Badgers outplayed the Terriers throughout the first two periods and were leading second-ranked Boston 3-1 late in the third period, but surrendered two goals in the last three minutes of the game.The second BU goal came in heartbreaking fashion, with just three seconds left in regulation. After a scoreless overtime period, the game ended in a 3-3 tie. While Eaves was disappointed the Badgers did not come out with a win, he was still impressed with the Badgers’ performance against another top team.“I’m focusing on the first 57 [minutes],” Eaves said. “We learned our lessons, but gosh [we] did so many tremendous things for so long.”After the heartbreaking loss, Wisconsin’s momentum came to a halt the following night, as they lost the rematch with Boston 6-1 on Jan. 10. UW outshot the Terriers 33-32 in the loss.The Badgers (2-12-2, 0-2-0 Big Ten) will continue a tough month of January with two series against their biggest rival, Minnesota, with another two-game series against Michigan in between series with the Gophers.last_img read more