The first quarterfinal at the WCHA Final Five featured the Minnesota State Mavericks and Wisconsin Badgers. Joel Rumpel and Stephon Williams would get the starts in net for each team, who both looked to establish themselves in the tournament.
Minnesota State’s Bryce Gervais got the first shot on goal, but it was Wisconsin’s Tyler Barnes who lit the lamp at 1:03 on even strength. Barnes’ goal was unassisted, and that marker felt quick, much like how Wisconsin wanted to play its game.
In the early going, it’d be interesting to watch how top-WCHA goaltender Stephon Williams of Minnesota State played with his team down a goal.
After the first five minutes, shots on goal favored Minnesota State by a 3-2 count, but the game still had the quick opening feel to it. At 5:13, Wisconsin’s Joseph Labate took a penalty for tripping, giving Minnesota State the first power play of the game.
Wisconsin’s penalty kill got off to a stellar start at 6:11, as Jefferson Dahl lit the lamp with goal number six on the year. Ryan Little assisted on the effort. Shots were 5-4 through eight minutes played, but at 8:11, Wisconsin scored the field goal as Nic Kerdiles lit the lamp on even strength. Kerdiles was assisted by Mark Zengerle and John Ramage.
It was hard to imagine, but Minnesota State was flat-footed in terms of its play. There was no movement in their legs, and that’s why Wisconsin was able to skate miles around the Mavericks.
Shots were 6-6 through ten minutes, and Minnesota State was left to dumping and chasing the puck, with little in the way of success. Minnesota State further shot themselves in the foot at 11:19 when Eli Zuck was assessed a boarding minor. Wisconsin’s first power play of the game never amounted to much, which was a good thing for Maverick supporters.
At the seventeen minute mark, shots on goal favored Wisconsin 11-7, and just before that, at 16:56, Wisconsin’s Kevin Schulze took a two-minute hooking minor. The Minnesota State power play, which was their second, clearly struggled to operate like a cohesive unit.
At the end of twenty minutes, shots on goal favored Wisconsin 13-7, with the Badgers at 0-1 on completed power plays. Minnesota State was 0-2. Minnesota State’s Chase Grant took an interference penalty at 18:59, which would give Wisconsin their second power play (to complete in the second period).
At 0:48 of the second period, Wisconsin’s Jake McCabe took a penalty for hooking, giving the game some time in four on four play. Minnesota State went back on the power play, for the third time. The Mavericks couldn’t do much with their power play, and the idea that Wisconsin was going to meet St. Cloud State in the semifinals was becoming more real.
I wouldn't be doing the first quarterfinal justice if I didn't give Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel the credit he deserves. He would make saves that any mortal goaltender had trouble making, plain and simple.
At 7:08, Wisconsin's Brendan Woods would be called for hooking, giving MSU their fourth power play of the game. The Maverick power play, which was second in the league in the regular season, would let in a shorthanded goal at 8:50. Jefferson Dahl would be credited with the goal, which was his seventh of the season. Dahl was assisted by Jake McCabe.
At 9:37 of the second, Minnesota State's Teddy Blueger would go down on the ice, and Wisconsin's John Ramage would be called for a major charging penalty. Minnesota State's only chance to get back in the game was to score unlimited goals during the five minutes.
At 10:53, Zach Palmquist answered the prayers by scoring a power play goal. He was assisted by Jean-Paul LaFontaine and Matt Leitner.
The power play would be short lived, and at 11:09, Minnesota State's Chase Grant would be called for hitting after the whistle. The Mavericks would get a 1:28 power play out of the deal though.
At the 12:24 mark of the second period, Wisconsin made the game 5-1 as Tyler Barnes scored his second goal of the game. Barnes' goal was unassisted. The game was also so out of reach for Minnesota State that Phil Cook came on in relief of Stephon Williams.
The goals kept on coming at 14:51 of the 2nd, as Minnesota State made it 5-2 on even strength thanks to Eriah Hayes' power play effort. He was assisted by Jean-Paul LaFontaine and Matt Leitner on the goal.
At 16:50 of the second period, UW's Jefferson Dahl would score his hat-trick on even strength, or so he thought. The goal was waived off due to a man being in the crease. Shots were 23-22 in favor of Minnesota State.
At 17:26, Minnesota State's Eriah Hayes would receive a cross checking minor while UW's Jake McCabe would also get an embellishment minor on the same play for over-doing the hit.
At the end of forty minutes, Wisconsin was clearly in control of the scoreboard, yet they were 0-2 on power plays while MSU was 2-7. Shots had Minnesota State up 24-23.
At 1:47 of the third period, Wisconsin gave Minnesota State it's eighth power play when Joseph Labate would go for hooking. The Minnesota State power play was not humming at all, and shots were 26-23 to Minnesota State after it ended.
As the game wound towards its fiftieth minute, Wisconsin's John Ramage would take an interference minor (at 8:09), giving Minnesota State their ninth power play. As the time ticked away, it was clear that Minnesota State was mailing it in. A 2-9 power play would be the biggest indicator of this.
At the 11:05 mark, Wisconsin's Frankie Simonelli made the score 6-2 on an even strength effort. Tyler Barnes and Nic Kerdiles would assist Simonelli on the goal, and moments later, at 11:36, Minnesota State's Eli Zuck would go down awkwardly. No penalty was assessed on the play, however.
Shots were 30-25 in Minnesota State's favor at the fifty-three minute mark, and it still appeared as though the Mavericks would be the ones making an early exit. As if the pounding wasn't enough, Wisconsin added a seventh goal by Joseph Labate (from Brendan Woods and Michael Mersch) at 17:16 on even strength.
As the end of the game came, Minnesota State finished 2-9 on power plays with Wisconsin at 0-2. Shots also had Minnesota State ahead of Wisconsin 40-27.
The second quarterfinal tonight at 7pm features Colorado College and the University of North Dakota. I'll have full postgame coverage after the final drop. Wisconsin advances to Friday's first semifinal versus St. Cloud State.
Geoff Discher is Examiner.com's National College Hockey Examiner as well as the Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey Examiner. Leave a comment below, or feel free to reach him at Disch61@hotmail.com with comments, story ideas, or any general talk surrounding college hockey. You can find him on Facebook as well by clicking here and here, joining the conversation from the social media side as well. He's always chock full of fact and opinion.
Until next time, I’ll see you at the rink!