CHICAGO – Head coach Mike Eaves reiterated throughout the week that giving up a home game in scheduling would be worth it for the lifetime experience that members of the Wisconsin men’s hockey team would enjoy against storied-rival Minnesota on Sunday inside Soldier Field.
The Badgers got a 3-2 win over the Gophers at Soldier Field in Chicago Sunday.
Having coached Wisconsin to two outdoor hockey game wins already in his career, Eaves said the moment would be something his players would never forget.
“It’s different,” Eaves said of outdoor hockey. “It’s unique. It’s not just another game in the second half of the season.”
Eaves said it would be a story they’d tell their kids and grandkids about someday.
What a story they’ll someday tell.
In front of the 52,051 fans in attendance for the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic, No. 18 Wisconsin (13-10-7, 10-7-7 WCHA) scored three goals in the second period and held off No. 2 Minnesota (20-6-4, 12-6-4 WCHA) for a 3-2 victory.
Perhaps riding the emotional high of their 3-2 victory on Friday to open the series, Minnesota came out in the first period and established the early momentum, outshooting Wisconsin 15-to-6 and testing goalie Joel Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan) early and often.
Rumpel countered with 15 saves, however, and set the stage for what would be a 36-save performance from the sophomore, who was given the game puck afterward by his teammates and coaches.
“His performance in the first period allowed us to get our feet out and underneath us,” Eaves said of Rumpel. “(Then) we rode an explosive period, in terms of goal scoring for us.”
Entering the game averaging 2.24 goals per game, Eaves and the Badgers spoke of how the team needed to get back to simple hockey: Keep the puck deep in the zone, take shots and put the puck on net.
In the second period, Wisconsin did just that. The Badgers kept it simple, and then scored three goals in just 3 minutes and 19 seconds. It was just the second time all season the team scored three goals in a period, alone.
“I think we threw literally everything we had at them,” John Ramage (St. Louis, Mo.) said. “Shots [from] the corner, shots from anywhere on the ice; we happened to get a couple good bounces and things went in.”
The first score went in at the 13:03 mark of the second period, as Kevin Schulze (White Bear Lake, Minn.) scored to give Wisconsin the 1-0 lead. The third goal of his career, the freshman took a shot from the point, then watched as it trickled through the pads of Adam Wilcox and across the goal line for the score.
Brendan Woods (Yorba Linda, Calif.), skating outside for the first time, channeled his excitement into the first multi-point game of his career, the first of which came on his assist to Schulze for the score.
Woods’ second assist came one minute and 10 seconds later, as Ramage found the net for Wisconsin. He looped a point shot on net and watched as the puck deflected off a Minnesota defenseman and in to give the Badgers a 2-0 lead at the 14:13 mark of the second period.
Michael Mersch also assisted on the play, skating inside the same stadium that his family own Chicago Bears season football tickets for and a stadium less than 20 miles from his hometown of Park Ridge, Ill.
Representing the state of Wisconsin was Sean Little (Fond du Lac, Wis.), Jefferson Dahl (Eau Claire, Wis.) and Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, Wis.), as the trio connected for the third score of the period. Taking the feed from Dahl, McCabe put a shot on net which was initially blocked, but Little knocked in the rebound for the score at the 16:22 mark of the second period.
The Gophers began staging a comeback at the 2:36 mark of the third period. After Rumpel made an initial pad save, pinning the puck against the right pipe, Seth Ambroz kept poking at the puck, until finally it bounced over the pad of Rumpel and in for the score. The goal cut Wisconsin’s lead to 3-1.
With 2:19 left in the third period, Minnesota head coach Don Lucia elected to pull goaltender Adam Wilcox to gain the extra attacker. The move paid off as Zach Budish deflected a Nick Bjugstad point shot after Erik Haula won an offensive zone faceoff. That cut Wisconsin’s lead to just one goal with 1:18 to play.
Coming off a career high 40 saves in the series opener on Friday night, Rumpel would make one final save, as he deflected away the last chance from the Gophers and the horn sounded on the game. The save sealed the victory and a 76-save series for Rumpel.
Looking to take the script of this season’s story further, the Badgers earned two points in WCHA play with the win and moved them back into the conference race, four points out of first and with a two-point cushion for the sixth and final home playoff spot.
“To battle back today, in this atmosphere, I think it’s going to be huge for us moving forward,” Ramage said. “We’re really looking forward to the end of this season.”
The Badgers return home to the Kohl Center next Sunday and Monday to take on first-year program Penn State. The Nittany Lions will joins the Badgers next year for the first season of Big Ten hockey.
Wisconsin Athletic Communications Department