With just over seven minutes to go in the third period of the Big Ten Championship game, Wisconsin trailed Ohio State 4-2. A Buckeye win got them into the NCAA tournament with an automatic bid, effectively taking the last spot in the big dance and sending UND home to Grand Forks for the offseason.
As fate would find UND on that night, the Badgers stormed back, knotted the game at four and a Mark Zengerle game-winner in OT sent North Dakota fans into a frenzy and the Green and White back into the tournament for a regional battle with… you guessed it… Wisconsin.
In the regional semifinal, UND bested its former WCHA foe 5-2 on a goal with just under two minutes to go from Mark McMillan and two empty-netters from Rocco Grimaldi.
Hockey is a cruel game, sometimes.
There’s sure to be a bitter taste in the mouths of several Badgers this weekend as No. 2 North Dakota travels to Madison to battle with Wisconsin, however, many of this year’s version of the Badgers weren’t around for last year’s memorable meeting as UW's squad with 11 freshmen takes the ice in a crucial non-conference series tonight and Saturday from the Kohl Center.
So far this season, Wisconsin has looked like a team that has 11 freshmen.
Perennial national contenders, the Badgers have had a rough go of it this Fall, coming into this weekend 0-4 after losses to Alaska and Alaska Anchorage on opening weekend and to Northern Michigan three weeks ago.
FOLLOW THE LEADERSWith a young team struggling out of the gate, Wisconsin turns to its upperclassmen to lead.
However, the Badgers return just three of their Top 10 scorers from last year.
Senior captain, forward Joseph LaBate is Wisconsin’s highest returning scorer (11a, 11g) and Sophomore forward and former Minnesota Mr. Hockey, Grant Besse, look to provide scoring.
The Badger's strong point is between the pipes as they lean on two senior netminders Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel.
Rumple, a Hobey Baker Top 10 Finalist last season, looks to be the one seeing more time through four games, having played in 3 of those contests with a 2.72 goal against average and .844 save percentage.
Junior forward Drake Caggiula (2g, 6a) and Senior assistant captain Michael Parks (1g, 6a) lead the team in points.
North Dakota, too, has a solid backbone in the nets. Junior goaltender Zane McIntyre comes into this weekend 5-1-1 on the year with a solid 1.91 GAA and .931 save percentage.
THE PICKThis series is an interesting one to DDC. It’s a rivalry series, the Badgers home opener and the first time these two teams have played since last year’s crazy, fateful ending. Also, Wisconsin hasn’t played in three weeks, so, this team should have legs. Three weeks!? That’s strange.
After an emotional, comeback OT win this past Saturday against Air Force, DDC sees North Dakota carrying that momentum into the Kohl Center.
Wisconsin has yet to show the scoring touch from its young group and UND is by far the best team they’ve played so far this year. With a dynamic blue line and leaders up front, DDC sees the Badgers being unable to handle a veteran squad at this point in the year. UND puts the Badgers on their heels on Friday for a big win and gets the sweep in a tighter battle on Saturday.
UND SWEEP, 5-1, 2-1
And, just because it’s a fond memory, here’s a clip of Andrew Kozek’s game-winning OT goal in the 2008 regional to send the Sioux to the Frozen Four over Wisconsin in the red’s home barn. A shout out to DDC’s fellow bleached-blonde haired brother for a great weekend and a pretty legendary memory.