DULUTH, Minn. — For Wisconsin, it was almost like starting over Friday night as the WCHA regular season began on the road at Amsoil Arena.
The Badgers had lost two close games to Northern Michigan on Oct. 12-13 in Green Bay, Wis., then had an off week.
A renewed chance at 2012-13 was a success as Wisconsin beat No. 14-ranked Minnesota-Duluth 2-0 before a crowd of 6,296. Tyler Barnes scored in the first period, Mark Zengerle in the second, sophomore goalie Joel Rumpel made 29 saves and Wisconsin (1-2-0) blocked 20 opposing shots.
“We were very good the first two periods and good enough to get a win in the third,” said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, 13-12-6 against UMD in his 11 seasons. “It seemed like a month since we had played.”
The Bulldogs (2-3-0) were sharp in the opening minutes, but weren’t on target with their shots, and then just couldn’t get to Rumpel. UMD has scored just one goal over the last seven-plus periods and has consecutive losses, including 4-1 at Notre Dame last Friday.
“We’re opening the WCHA season at home against a big-time team and they outworked us most of the game,” said UMD sophomore winger Justin Crandall. “That’s not acceptable. We have to come out with a lot more fire. We made it too easy for them to come out of their zone and they were willing to sacrifice their body to block shots. We shouldn’t be waiting until the last seven minutes of the game to get into the game.”
Barnes finished off an intense flurry with 4:49 left in the first period, punching the puck past freshman goalie Matt McNeely, UMD’s best player on the night.
A power play led to a 2-0 advantage with 5:52 remaining in the second period. Zengerle cranked an attempt from the left circle that hit off the far pipe and behind the goalie.
“I think I did a good job in all areas of the ice [and] I think I played a smart, even-keeled game,” said Zengerle, who also had an assist, and now has 90 points in 81 career games.
A five-minute power play with 7:49 left in the third period, gave UMD a bundle of changes, leading to a final 29-26 shots on goal advantage. Wisconsin’s Morgan Zulinick was called for a hit from behind on UMD’s Dan DeLisle.
The Bulldogs were around the net, yet the Badgers seemed to get some inspiration on the penalty kill and snuffed all chances. Earlier in the period, Crandall misfired on a 2-on-1 rush.
“Our energy level was good, our execution was not,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We again dug ourselves a hole and if Matty McNeely hadn’t been very good, it could’ve been more of a hole. Wisconsin played good, tight defense. We have to get into the tough areas and stay on pucks. We just missed the net a lot.”
McNeely was making his second collegiate start, following a 3-1 win at Notre Dame last week. He had 24 saves. Rumpel earned his fourth career shutout.
“Wisconsin came ready to play right off the bat and it seemed like we couldn’t catch a break,” said McNeely. “We were a little sluggish at the start, including me, and then we had multiple opportunities and didn’t capitalize. That’s a good defensive team.”
UMD was shut out just twice last season, 5-0 at home against Michigan Tech and 4-0 in the NCAA playoff quarterfinals against eventual-champion Boston College. The Bulldogs are 5-2-1 the last eight games versus Wisconsin.