SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- Wisconsin Head Coach Mike Eaves said earlier in the season he believes that sports are the greatest form of reality television there is.
Case in point: The 2013 WCHA Final Five Champion, Wisconsin Badgers.
Playing on a stage made for primetime, No. 14 Wisconsin (22-12-7) took a one-goal lead into the third period on Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center and emerged a 3-2 winner over Colorado College (18-19-5), winning the 2013 WCHA Final Five and the program’s first Broadmoor Trophy since 1998.
Tyler Barnes (Eagan, Minn.) and Nic Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif.) each scored their fourth goals of the tournament, while Sean Little (Fond du Lac, Wis.) added his third of the season, as the Badgers also secured the league's automatic bid into the 16-team NCAA tournament.
“We get to play another weekend,” Head Coach Mike Eaves said. “It didn’t look like that at the beginning of the season…At the beginning of December, we were just trying to win a hockey game.”
Faltering on their way to a 1-7-2 start to the 2012-13 campaign, the Badgers battled back to a 22-12-7 finish amidst the adversity of losing streaks, injuries, line changes and coaching changes.
“Within those first 10 games we could’ve fallen right apart,” Eaves said. “I think because of the leadership of some of our older guys and the coaches working together and staying with it, we eventually turned the ship around.”
Wisconsin started the season without winning a game the entire month of November, then, finished by losing just one game the entire month of March while winning eight. The Badgers are now 21-5-5 since Nov. 30, including a six-game winning streak to ride into the NCAA tournament.
Joel Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan) recorded 20 saves in the win over Colorado College. A WCHA Final Five All-Tournament team selection, Rumpel made a combined 88 saves and allowed just four goals over the three-game title run. Barnes, Kerdiles and John Ramage (St. Louis) were also recognized with all-tournament team honors.
A fast start has been the key for Wisconsin this season, as the team entered the day 19-7-3 when scoring first. That trend continued Saturday. For the third-straight game, Wisconsin scored the first goal and grabbed early momentum.
With 17 seconds left in the first period, Frankie Simonelli (Bensenville, Minn.) fired a shot from the blue line, which Kerdiles tipped on net from the slot. Poised for the rebound, Barnes buried the puck to give the Badgers a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Wisconsin extended its lead at the 3:28 mark of the second period when Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, Wis.) ripped a long shot from just inside the blue line. Sean Little redirected the puck in front to put Wisconsin up 2-0.
Colorado College responded in the second period, as Charlie Taft scored off a feed from Rylan Schwartz on the rush at the 7:19 mark, cutting Wisconsin's lead to one.
Tournament MVP Kerdiles had the answer for Wisconsin at the 16:15 mark of the second period. After Mark Zengerle (Rochester, N.Y.) won an offensive-zone faceoff, Ramage drove the puck to the net and had his shot blocked. Kerdiles was there to bury the rebound, netting his 10th goal of the season and extending his current point streak to 11 games (5-13=18).
The Tigers shifted momentum as the second period ended, however, as Schwartz converted a partial breakaway with 28 seconds left to make it 3-2 Wisconsin. Part of a quick sequence to close the period, Schwartz’s goal came just seconds after Barnes was denied on a great chance of his own.
“It was an unfortunate sequence of events for us,” Barnes said. “(We said) everyone take a deep breath, calm down and get back to our game.”
The Badgers delivered over the final frame, holding off an early Colorado College power play and a flurry of a pressure and shots on goal from the Tigers over the final minutes to clinch the win and complete what was an unfathomable comeback back in November.
“At the start of the season we never predicted what we’d start out like,” Ramage said. “But, at the same time, we knew exactly what kind of team we had. In our minds, we’d be at where we’re at right now."
The Badgers outshot the Tigers 33-22 in the game, and Wisconsin was 0-for-4 with the man advantage while holding CC scoreless on two power plays.
Wisconsin now awaits its seeding and placement in the NCAA tournament, as the entire field and pairings will be released tomorrow at 8 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
[i]Wisconsin Athletic Communications Department'/i]
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