Final periods prove costly in pair of losses against UND

first_imgGoing into the final period of both games this weekend versus North Dakota, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team had a chance to win.Unfortunately for the Badgers (0-6-0), they were unable to seal the deal in both games Friday and Saturday night against North Dakota (7-1-1), leaving Wisconsin still winless on the year.In their home-opener Friday, the Badgers were leading UND 2-1 after the second period following a goal by defenseman Chase Drake with more than a minute to play before the intermission.Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said the team was feeling good going into the final period with the lead against North Dakota considering that UND is one of the best teams in the nation.“We had a 2-1 lead going into the third period against the number two team in the country,” Eaves said. “We would have taken that if somebody had told us that would’ve been it.”Badger forward Grant Besse agreed with Eaves, saying he felt they were the better team in those 20 minutes.“I believe we outplayed them in the second period. Outshot them, didn’t give them too many shots, so it’s frustrating because we knew we gave ourselves a chance.”Wisconsin could not take advantage of that chance as things fell apart for the Badgers in the final 20 minutes of the game. Wisconsin spent much of the period playing shorthanded after racking up multiple costly penalties. UND outshot the Badgers 14-3 in the third and tallied three goals, giving them a 4-3 victory over Wisconsin in game one.“We just have to learn to close out the game,” sophomore forward Jedd Soleway said following Friday night’s loss.In Wisconsin’s rematch with North Dakota Saturday, the Badgers entered the final period against second-ranked UND trailing by only one goal with considerable momentum after the Badgers had just outshot UND in a period for the first time all series.But Wisconsin was once again unable to sustain that momentum in the third as it gave up three goals in the final period for the second consecutive night. What was an evenly played battle for more than two-thirds of the game turned into a decisive 5-1 victory for North Dakota.“We had two big periods again tonight, and just fell short again in the third, let momentum swing toward the end,” Drake said after the game.According to Eaves, Wisconsin deserved to win the game for two-and-a-half periods, but the last 10 minutes of the game was missing the link the Badgers needed to get the win.“Sometimes, one of the branches breaks off and that’s what happened tonight in the last 10 minutes,” Eaves said.While Wisconsin still failed to close out the game Saturday, Eaves said the Badgers’ effort to close it out was a step in the right direction.“We were closer to earning that victory than last night so that’s building block we leave with tonight,” Eaves said.Badger goaltender Joel Rumpel also felt his team had made strides despite two losses, saying he felt there were positives Wisconsin could take away from their performances this weekend against the nation’s second-best team.Even though Wisconsin is still working to play more complete games, the Badgers believe the consistency will come sooner or later. The team captain Drake alluded to the 2012-2013 Wisconsin team’s similarly slow start as a reason to still be confident everything will come together.“We’re all frustrated, but we have experience with this,” Drake said. “We can look back from two years ago when we started off 1-7-2 and learn from our mistakes then. They’re pretty similar now.”Coaches often prefer to lean on veteran players in high pressure late-game situations. Unfortunately, Eaves does not have that luxury with this year’s team.Wisconsin has 11 freshmen on their roster and had to replace their top four scorers from last season. They’ll now have to additionally replace junior defenseman Eddie Wittchow, who is out indefinitely after suffering a broken finger in Friday night’s game. The Badgers will be counting on their young players to develop the maturity and poise needed in late-game situations as the season goes on.Fortunately for the Badgers, they will have the next two weeks off to try to figure things out.Wisconsin’s next opportunity to avenge their third period woes will come two weekends from now when they travel to Colorado for road games at Colorado College and Denver.last_img read more