Late season surge saves preseason expectations

first_imgOffense: B+In their late season push, the Badgers offense – for lack of a better word – exploded.The normally defense-minded squad netted 44 goals throughout the course of its final 12 games of the season, with a season high seven goals against Minnesota State in the quarterfinals of the WCHA Final Five on March 21. But with 112 goals through 42 games this season, the Badgers finished with an average 2.7 goals per game. That clip places them ninth in the WCHA – but only one team (SCSU) is still alive in the NCAA Tournament.The Badgers finished the season with eight players scoring more than 20 points on the season and four with more than 30. Leading the team was junior winger Michael Mersch, who scored 23 goals and notched 13 assists for a team-leading 36 points. Mersch’s 23 goals also rank him fourth in the nation and second in conference – only North Dakota senior forward Danny Kristo outpaced him with 26.Freshman phenom Nic Kerdiles was second on the team with 33 points on 11 goals and 22 assists. The freshman winger ended his season on a 12-game point streak with a five-game multi-point streak in the midst of that.While Kerdiles was second on the team in points, his linemate – junior winger Tyler Barnes – was second to Mersch in goals with 15, seven of which he scored in the Badgers’ last nine games.Goaltending: A-While sophomores Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson shared time in the crease for the majority of the season, Rumpel eventually established himself as the go-to guy, ending the season with 29 starts to Peterson’s 13.Rumpel solidified himself as one of the top goaltenders in the WCHA with the top save percentage at a .929 clip. His 1.96 goals against average was second in conference and 10th in the nation, sitting behind Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox who finished with 1.88. The Swift Current, Saskatchewan native recorded four shutouts throughout the course of the year.While he fell into the back-up role, Peterson’s stats only slightly trailed Rumpel. In 14 appearances, Peterson averaged 2.00 goals against and owned a .926 save percentage. Peterson also recorded one shutout in his succinct playing time.Over the course of the season, the Badgers’ confidence in their net minders never wavered as they were often lauded for their play within the team. They were also credited as the most consistent players – even through Wisconsin’s horrendous 1-7-2 start.Defense: A-Struggling to find its offensive rhythm throughout much of the season, Wisconsin’s defense was often called upon to keep the team competitive is a tough WCHA conference.UW led the league in scoring defense throughout the year and finished the season with the top spot, averaging a measly 2.29 goals per game. Leading the charge for the Badger defense were senior defenseman John Ramage and sophomore defenseman Jake McCabe on UW’s top two lines. Both players earned accolades in the WCHA. McCabe was the lone Badger representative on the All-WCHA team, while Ramage claimed a spot on the WCHA Final Five All-Tournament team.Unfortunately, when Wisconsin did give up goals against its opponents, they often came at inopportune times. Despite allowing a conference-low 64 goals on the season, UW was tied for the fourth most goals allowed in the third period with 29 goals coming in the final 20 minutes against them.Especially early in the season, this played a big role in their slow 1-7-2 start to the 2012-13 campaign, as many potential wins or ties evaporated in the third period, becoming ties and losses instead.However, by the Final Five, this issue had been remedied as the defense helped guide Wisconsin to its first WCHA tournament title since 1998, allowing only seven goals in five games (1.4 goals allowed per game).Special Teams: CSpecial teams, in particular Wisconsin’s power play, became one of the main areas of concern for the Badgers as they struggled out of the gates to begin the season.A constant talking point for head coach Mike Eaves with the media, the numerous injuries that Wisconsin faced throughout the season played into UW’s inability to execute on the power play.Injuries to senior center Derek Lee and sophomore defender Jake McCabe, both key members in Eaves’ power play strategy, left UW without a consistent grouping each time the Badgers found themselves with the man-advantage. Often times, Wisconsin would even struggle to register shots on the power play.On the season, Wisconsin finished last in the WCHA on the power play, scoring on 11.5 percent of their power plays, totaling 10 goals. Out of 59 NCAA ice hockey teams, this tally was only good enough for 51st in the country.Combining a mediocre 21 goals allowed on the penalty kill (seventh best in the WCHA), UW finished with a net point total of negative nine on the season, giving Wisconsin the 10th worst total in the 12-team WCHA conference.last_img

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