MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Badgers’ weeklong run of good luck came to an end in Sunday night’s overtime loss to North Dakota in the Midwest Regional final.
Starting last weekend when Miami senior defenseman Mitch Ganzak scored for the RedHawks with 3.4 seconds remaining to force overtime in the CCHA semifinals against Notre Dame, keeping Wisconsin’s NCAA tournament hopes alive, everything fell in the Badgers’ favor for the next seven days.
The day after, Wisconsin needed Northern Michigan, with its backup goaltender, to beat Notre Dame, Boston College to defeat Vermont, and Princeton to upend Harvard. Each game ended positively for Wisconsin, pushing the Badgers into the NCAA tournament.
This all occurred in the same season Wisconsin happened to be hosting the Midwest Regional at the Kohl Center, giving the Badgers home ice in the first two games of the NCAAs.
In the regional semifinal against Denver, Badger freshman defenseman Cody Goloubef hit the post in the third period, but the puck bounced off Denver goalie Peter Mannino and slid over the goal line for the game-winner.
Late in the second period against the Fighting Sioux, Goloubef shot a puck past the net which deflected off the end boards and bounced off of North Dakota senior goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux and into the net for his second fluke goal in as many nights, and one of the few breaks that bended in favor of the Badgers on Sunday.
While the Pioneers scored two goals in the losing effort, they hit four posts as the pucks clearly were bouncing the Badgers’ way.
“It’s always good to be lucky. That’s just the way the bounces were going tonight,” Wisconsin junior goaltender Shane Connelly said Saturday. “Sometimes the bounces don’t [go] that way.”
Connelly and the Badgers experienced that the hard way on Sunday.
Two Badger scoring chances in the first period resulted in the goal judge prematurely turning on the goal light: sophomore forward Aaron Bendickson’s goal was waved off because an official blew his whistle before the puck went in the net. Later in the frame, freshman forward Kyle Turris hit the post and the puck rolled along the goal line, but never across it, as North Dakota dodged another bullet.
Wisconsin hit three more posts, including two from senior captain Davis Drewiske, bailing out Lamoureux.
“We got off to the start we wanted, had a 2-0 lead, and hit about four posts,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. “It’s kind of ironic, paradoxical tonight.”
“We had some lucky bounces, we got some unlucky ones, and that’s hockey, that’s the way it goes,” Wisconsin junior forward Ben Street said. “It just wasn’t our night … If those bounces go the other way, maybe it’s out of reach coming into the third period,” Street said.
North Dakota junior forward Ryan Duncan benefited from the pipe when his shot connected with the metal and landed in the net at 4:20 of the third period to even the score.
“It was just kind of bad luck with the couple of [North Dakota] goals there. What can you do?” senior defenseman Kyle Klubertanz said.
In the first period, senior forward Matt Ford could not corral a bouncing puck on a one-timer that would have resulted in an empty-net opportunity.
Sophomore forward Michael Davies had a breakaway eight minutes into the second period but was denied by Lamoureux. Against Denver, Davies scored his second goal on a breakaway after a Pioneer turnover.
The fact that Wisconsin’s good fortune ran out in the waning moments of its season stuck to a recurring theme of the 2007-08 campaign.
The Badgers potentially could have earned points in losses at Denver and St. Cloud State when they saw third period, game-tying goals taken away by referees Randy Schmidt and Derek Shepherd, respectively. As a result, it seemed fitting that Wisconsin’s fortunes ran one game short of qualifying for a second Frozen Four berth in three seasons.