ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Wisconsin-Superior Yellowjackets took advantage of solid penalty killing and superb goaltending to defeat their NCHA rivals, Wisconsin-River Falls, 3-1, for third place in the 2001 NCAA Frozen Four.
Nate Ziemski stopped all but one of the 30 River Falls shots, turning around his performance from the night before. River Falls went 0 for 8 on the power play for a weekend total of 0 for 14, and a NCAA playoff total of 0 for 20 this year. This was quite the opposite of the regular season when River Falls had the best power play percentage in the NCHA.
Said Superior coach Dan Stauber of his penalty kill, “I wish I had that last night.”
Most consolation games are penalty filled affairs. At first it appeared this would not be the case as the first seven minutes were cleanly played. However, by the end of the game 17 penalties were called including a major and 10-minute misconduct, for a total of 45 minutes.
The first goal of the game didn’t come until late in the first period when Superior took advantage of it’s first power play at 17:44. Jeff Glowa fed the puck from behind the net to a waiting Rob Ziemmer in the slot. Ziemmer one-timed it past Jacque Vezina.
The second period opened up with an ugly incident that threatened to cause the game to get out of hand. It started when Rob Novak of River Falls gave a solid high check to Reed Larson who then fell into the boards. It could have been considered boarding, but nothing was called.
Shortly afterwards Larson went after Novak sticking his leg out creating a knee to knee hit. Novak went down and had to be helped off the ice, missing the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, Falcons coach Steve Freeman was unaware of what was going to be called, grabbed a stick and proceeded to break it against the boards, trying to get the referee’s attention. Some players were also making close contact that the refs had to break up.
“There were some big hits. Emotions where high,” explained Freeman. “We didn’t know what was being called right away. But it was handled okay. The game was under control.”
Ultimately, Larson got a five-minute major for charging, but the Falcons were unable to muster much of an attack the entire time.
“The story of the game was that we couldn’t get anything started on the power play,” said Freeman. “We had many, many point-blank opportunities. Their goalie made the difference.”
The Yellowjackets once again scored late in the period, this time with 37 seconds left on a nice set of passes between linemates. As Superior broke out of its zone, Glowa passed to Eric Pitoscia, who then fed Allen Hasbargen racing down the middle. Hasbargen took a wrist shot from the high slot area into the upper corner of the net.
River Falls applied more pressure on the Superior goal early in the third, but Ziemski was equal to the task as he came up with one big save after another in perhaps his best period of the tournament.
“I ultimately didn’t play real good yesterday,” Nate Ziemski said. “It’s hard especially when I think about the seniors. We got a win, got third place, but didn’t get what we came for.”
Despite all the pressure, it was Superior that scored again late in the period at 15:34. Ryan Kalbrener carried the puck on an end to end rush that turned into a two on one. Kalbrener looked the defenseman off, wound up, and fired a wicked slapshot past Vezina.
River Falls would finally break the shutout with 1:07 left in the game. Eliot Komar fired a slapshot that eluded Ziemski.
“I didn’t see it till it was halfway in,” explains Ziemski. “It’s no big deal. I’ll take a win over a shutout any day.”
River Falls ends its season at 23-10-2. Despite the two losses this weekend, Falcons coach Steve Freeman said, “It’s just an honor to be here.”
Superior ends with a 30-4-1 record, the most wins in school history. “It was a great year,” Stauber said. “Not too many teams win 30 games.”