ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- Joel Rumpel recorded 30 saves, while Nic Kerdiles and Joseph LaBate each tallied a goal and an assist, as No. 14 Wisconsin (21-12-7) advanced to the WCHA Final Five championship game with a 4-1 win over No. 7 St. Cloud State (23-15-1) Friday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.
After John Ramage (St. Louis) scored his team-leading fifth game-winning goal of the season on a power play in the second period, Wisconsin entered the third period of the semifinal game with a 2-1 lead over the Huskies. The Badgers then scored once more on the power play and added a late empty-net goal over the frame to secure the win.
Scoring one of those final two goals was Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif.), who recorded points in his 10th straight game (4-12=16) and helped lead the Badgers past the top-seeded Huskies on their way to the program’s first WCHA Final Five championship game since 2000 and first ever under head coach Mike Eaves.
Wisconsin enters the tournament title match now 20-5-5 over its last 30 games--beginning Nov. 30 when Kerdiles joined the lineup--and seeks its first Broadmoor Trophy since 1998, when the Badgers defeated North Dakota at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
What seemed like a longshot back in November of making the NCAA tournament has become reality for the Badgers, who have won five straight games and seven of their last eight games to keep the season alive and postseason hopes in tact.
It is now as simple as win and you’re in for Wisconsin, who will face the winner of the semifinal matchup later tonight between Colorado College and Minnesota in the WCHA Final Five championship game on Saturday at 7 p.m. CT.
“Whatever happens, happens,” UW assistant coach Gary Shuchuk said. “We’re going to go in with the mentality that you’ve got to win the game. You don’t need a computer to get you into the game.
“We’re here. We might as well win.”
Believing it can win anywhere at anytime and taking on a road warrior mentality has become a trademark of Wisconsin’s second-half turnaround this season. Beginning Nov. 30 with a 1-1 tie at then-WCHA leading Denver, the Badgers have gone 10-1-2 since while playing on the road or in neutral-site games.
Keeping them in most of those contests, including Friday, has been Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan), who improved to 8-2-2 away from the home Kohl Center and earned his 15th win of the season (15-8-4). Holding St. Cloud State to just one power-play goal, Rumpel has recorded 68 saves and allowed just three power-play goals through the first two games of the WCHA Final Five.
“One of our best players was our goaltender (Rumpel),” Wisconsin assistant coach Gary Shuchuk said. “We couldn’t get our feet under us there to start. He had to make some great saves to keep us in it.”
Once settled in, Wisconsin has been able to produce and light the lamp. With a three-goal win over the Huskies on Friday, the Badgers have now outscored their opponents by a combined 11-to-3 margin during the conference tournament.
Joseph LaBate (Eagan, Minn.) got the Badgers on the board first with a wrist shot from the left wing at 10:46 of the first period.
Wisconsin allowed five power-play opportunities to St. Cloud State over the course of the game, but held the Huskies to just one conversion. That came at the 14:29 mark of the first period when Ben Hanowski found the net to tie the game at 1-1.
The power play was the main source of offense for the Badgers against the Huskies, as John Ramage (St. Louis) found the net in the second period and Kerdiles the third. Going 2-for-5 on the man advantage, Wisconsin has now converted on eight of its last 38 (21.1 percent) power plays.
One of the most impressive and important penalty kills of the game came in the third period, as the Badgers held a 2-1 lead and the Huskies looked to tie with the man advantage. Holding the puck down in the zone for nearly the entire 2:00 power play, UW kept SCSU off the shot chart single shot on goal. Jefferson Dahl (Eau Claire, Wis.), Ryan Little (Fond du Lac, Wis.), Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, Wis.) and Ramage were on the ice for the entire kill.
Wisconsin has held its opponents to 4-for-28 (14.3 percent) on the power play over its last six games, dating back to when the Badgers last faced St. Cloud State during the regular season in a series at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wis.
Wisconsin capitalized on a five-minute major power play midway through the third period to extend its lead to 3-1. Just 11 seconds into the power play, Kerdiles scored off assists from Ramage and LaBate at the 10:29 mark.
Tyler Barnes (Eagan, Minn.) scored his third goal in two games by firing on empty net with 1:11 left in the game, sealing the victory for Wisconsin.
The WCHA Final Five championship game will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. CT.
Wisconsin Athletic Communications Department