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No.14 Wisconsin (19-12-7) advanced to the Final Five at the XCEL Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., for the first time since 2010 after sweeping the series. Wisconsin won 3-1 on Friday night by scoring three unanswered goals after trailing 1-0 at the first intermission.
In the series clincher, Wisconsin scored three in the first period, including two in the first 4:09, to win 4-1. The Badgers finished 3-0-1 against Minnesota Duluth.
What’s the Impact
The impact was minimal considering Duluth was far out of the NCAA tournament picture. Combined with Wisconsin winning the series in two games (a loss could have been really damaging) and some other results around the country, the Badgers sit in a tie for 16th in the Pairwise Rankings with five other teams, but holds the tiebreaker. If the NCAA tournament began today, UW, in theory, would be in the field.
That having been said, Wisconsin still needs to win games in the final weekend of the regular season in order to boost its resume. If UW loses on Thursday, its season is likely done.
Who was the Weekend MVP
Junior Mark Zengerle. The forward has points in nine of his last 10 games, including two games in his last five with at least three points after posting a goal and two assists Friday. Zengerle has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his last five games and now ranks second on UW with 30 points and a team-best 21 assists.
He’s the first player in the Eaves era, which began in 2002, to reach that total in each of his three seasons.
Three Areas of Excitement
Kerdiles on a Tear: After missing the first 10 games of the season after being suspended by the NCAA because of an amateurism violation, freshman Nic Kerdiles is playing his best hockey of the season. After scoring a goal and registering an assist Friday and having two assists Saturday, Kerdiles has a team-best nine game point streak.
Ramming Home the Winner: Senior defenseman John Ramage scored his team-leading fourth game-winning goal of the season Friday, and also added an assist. He now has career highs with seven goals and 15 points this season. All four of his career game-winning goals have come this year.
Power Up: Special teams were key Friday as Wisconsin went 1-for-3 on the power play, scoring with the man advantage for the third time in four games and for the fourth consecutive weekend for the first time this season. UW’s power play is last in the WCHA and ranks 55th in the nation at 12.4 percent (15-for-121), but has climbed from 59th and last in the country on Feb. 24.
Three Areas of Concern
Zero. Wisconsin is on a tear having gone 18-5-5 since Nov. 30 for a .732 winning percentage. The 18 victories rank third in the nation since that time, while the five losses are tied for the second fewest and the winning percentage is fifth in the country. That has come after UW went 1-7-2 over its first 10 games of the season.
“This is where we wanted to be in the beginning of the season, but the way that we did it is quite an accomplishment for these young men,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said.
Wisconsin will kick off the Final Five with a Thursday afternoon tilt against Minnesota State. The Mavericks (24-12-3) beat Nebraska-Omaha in three games, winning 4-3 in overtime Friday and 3-1 on Sunday and losing 2-1 Saturday.
The Badgers and the Mavericks have split the season series with each team sweeping a series on the other’s home ice. Minnesota State won a pair of 4-2 games Nov.23-24 in Madison, putting UW at 1-7-2 to start the season, while Wisconsin won a pair of overtime games in Mankato, Minn., Jan.11-12.