CINCINNATI — Mark MacMillan’s redirected goal with 1:44 left broke a tie as Midwest Regional No. 4 seed North Dakota upended top-seeded Wisconsin 5-2 Friday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
MacMillan’s goal was a part of a three-point night for the North Dakota junior.
2014 NCAA Midwest Regional
North Dakota’s Rocco Grimaldi scored two empty-net goals late to notch his first collegiate hat trick.
North Dakota advanced to the NCAA Midwest Regional final, marking the fourth straight regional final appearance for coach Dave Hakstol’s squad.
“A very determined effort,” Hakstol said. “I thought our players really stuck with a good mentality and played a good 60 minutes. It was everything we thought the game would be. Wisconsin was an outstanding hockey team and I give credit to a lot of guys in our locker room.”
Wisconsin has not won a NCAA tournament game since the national semifinals in 2010. The Badgers are less than a week removed from winning the inaugural Big Ten tournament.
“It was a 2-2 game with 1:44 to go and you’re just trying to get pucks and bodies to the net and [North Dakota] did exactly that,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “Your last game of the year is always a tough game. We have nine seniors that gave us great leadership this year.”
The Badgers killed off five minor penalties but Eaves said the penalties took a toll on his squad.
“Instead of spending time trying to score, we were spending time trying to kill penalties, which we did, but it took away from us getting the momentum to score goals,” Eaves said. “I think the fact we killed them off gave us momentum but we spent a lot of energy doing that so that’s why we looked like we were on our heels.”
North Dakota goalie Zane Gothberg stopped 22 of 24 shots, while Wisconsin’s Joel Rumpel made 30 saves.
Michael Parks got North Dakota on the board 5:06 into the first period when he one-timed Drake Caggiula’s pass from the end boards past Rumpel.
Wisconsin took advantage of a goaltender interference penalty and scored with four seconds remaining on the ensuing power play. Jedd Soleway flipped a wrist shot under Gothberg’s shoulder to knot the game at 1-1 at 11:41 of the first.
North Dakota took a 2-1 lead 6:45 into the second as Grimaldi intercepted Jake McCabe’s pass through center ice and flipped a backhander past Rumpel.
“When they took the lead, I don’t think we were on our heels,” McCabe said.
For the first nine minutes of the third period, North Dakota did a good job preserving its 2-1 advantage. Wisconsin committed two minor penalties and was outplayed by North Dakota.
Despite the rough start to the period, the Badgers knotted the game at 2-2 with 10:28 left. Tyler Barnes sent a wrist shot through Gothberg’s legs for his 14th goal of the season.
After Wisconsin’s goal, “I think we were just trying to get back to our game and not let it affect us,” Grimaldi said. “I thought we were doing a pretty good job of getting pucks in and getting some chances. We just wanted to stick to our game plan and not try to play a different role or different game.”
After MacMillan’s goal went into the net, referees looked at replays for five minutes questioning whether MacMillan had bumped Rumpel or whether he had used a high stick. After the nervy moments, the refs emerged from the penalty box declaring the goal good.
North Dakota outshot the Badgers 14-6 in the third period.
“That was the third period we would hope to play,” Hakstol said. “We came out and we were on our toes, intelligent, trying to remain aggressive. I thought we played an excellent 20 minutes of hockey. Getting the game-winner with a minute and half to go, it was nothing pretty but it was a pretty good playoff hockey goal.”
North Dakota will face No. 2 seed Ferris State in the regional final Saturday at 6:30 p.m. EDT.