For the first 10 games of this season, Wisconsin freshman Nic Kerdiles was ineligible. The NCAA banned him because he violated amateur rules, staying in a hotel room provided by his family adviser during the NHL draft.
The Badgers struggled without him, going 1-7-2 and looking pathetic.
The bad start, it seemed, was going to cost them a chance to play in the NCAA tournament -- unless they won thre Final Five.
So perhaps it was fitting Kirdiles, from Irvine, Calif., scored the game-winner as the Badgers beat Colorado College 3-2 to win the Broadmoor Trophy on Saturday at the X. With the trophy, of course, came an automatic bid to the NCAAs.
It was the first Final Five (or Four, as it used to be called) title for the Badgers since 1998, or about the time Nic was 3 or 4.
Kirdiles had four goals for UW in the tournament, so did forward Tyler Barnes of Eagan and Burnsville High.
Kerdiles was named the tournament MVP. He put Wisconsin ahead 3-1 at 16:15 of the second period on a rebound. It was his 10th goal of the season. He has an 11-game point streak, with five goals and 13 assists in that stretch.
"At the beginning of December, we were just trying to win a hockey game,” Badgers coach Mike Eaves said, according to a school news release.
The won one, then another, then another. They are now 22-12-7 with a six-game winning streak.
Besides Kerdiles' early loss, the Badgers also overcame injuries and even a coaching change, when assistant Bill Butters, who worked with the defensemen, left abruptly.
“We eventually turned the ship around,” Eaves said.
The Badgers are now 21-5-5 since Nov. 30.
Four Wisconsin players made the all-tournament team: goalie Joel Rumpel who stopped 88 of 92 shots in three games, Barnes, Kerdiles and defenseman John Ramage.
“At the start of the season we never predicted what we’d start out like,” Ramage said. “But, at the same time, we knew exactly what kind of team we had. In our minds, we’d be at where we’re at right now."
The Badgers have 10 players from Wisconsin on their roster and six from Minnesota.
-- Tyler Barnes, jr. F from Eagan ... fourth on team in scoring, 15-15-30
-- Joe LaBate, jr. F from Eagan ... fifth on team in scoring, 9-13-22, played at Holy Angels
-- Joe Faust, jr. D, from Bloomington ... one goal in 41 games
-- Kevin Schulze, fr. D from White Bear Lake ... plus-21, 4-3-7
-- Eddie Wittchow, fr. D from Burnsville ... 28 games, plus-7
-- Spencer Bell, fr. F from Maple Grove ... walk-on, hasn't played
* The NCAA field and regional placements will be released on ESPNU at 8 p.m. Sunday.