Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
Junior forward Michael Mersch of Park Ridge, Ill., was named Wisconsin's MVP for this past season after a vote by his teammates.
He led the Badgers in goals with 23 and points with 36.
Named captain of the Badgers for the 2013-14 season was junior defenseman Frankie Simonelli of Bensenville, Ill. The assistant captains will be junior forward Jefferson Dahl and sophomore defenseman Jake McCabe. Both are from Eau Claire, Wis.
Other award winners:
Scholastic Award: senior forward Ryan Little of Fond du Lac, Wis. ... He was a repeat winner/
Most Consistent Player: freshman defenseman Kevin Schulze of White Bear Lake ... He had a team-high plus-21 rating.
Most Improved Player: junior forward Jefferson Dahl of Eau Claire, Wis. ... He more than doubled his career goal total with seven goals, while his 14 points doubled his career totals from his first two seasons.
Most Competitive Player: Little. He led the team with 230 hits. ... Repeat winner.
7th-Man Award: Dahl
Blocked shots leader: defenseman John Ramage, 121
Best faceoff man: Brendan Woods, won 61.6 percent
Wisconsin will have 10 seniors and six juniors next season. The Badgers will, officially open practice on Oct. 5. Their first game will be against Northern Michigan on Friday, Oct. 11 at the Kohl Center.
This regional matches up two WCHA teams with two Hockey East teams. My guess is that fans of the Wisconsin and Denver will support the other on Friday and make some noise.
Doubt the seeding matter much in these two games. Look like two toss-ups.
Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, New Hampshire
Friday's first semifinal, 3:30 p.m.
No. 1 Massachusetts-Lowell (26-10-2) vs. No. 4 Wisconsin (22-12-7) ... ESPN3 or ESPN syndication
Friday's second semifinal, 7 p.m.
No. 2 New Hampshire (19-11-7) vs. No. 3 Denver (20-13-5) ... ESPNU or WatchESPN
Semifinal winners, 5:30 p.m. ESPNU or WatchESPN
Massachusetts-Lowell at a glance
Record: 26-10-2, 16-9-2 in conference to win Hockey East regular-season title for first time. Then beat Boston University 1-0 in Hockey East championship game this past Saturday to win conference tournament for first time.
NCAA history: Fifth trip but second in two years. Beat Miami 4-3 in first round last year, the lost 4-2 to No. 1 seed Union. ... Most recent appearance before last year was 1996. ... Won first game in last three NCAAs.
Vs. Wisconsin: 7-1-1 all-time against the Badgers. All meetins were between 1984-88. Met Wisconsin in first round of 1988 NCAA playing, losing 7-1 and tying 4-4. So Badgers won two-game, total-goal series 11-5.
Streaks: River Hawks have won five games in a row, 11 of past 12 and are 22-3-1 since early December.
Top scorers: Jr. F Joseph Pendenza, 13-23-36; so. F Scott Wilson, 15-19-34; jr. F Derek Arnold, 12-16-28.
Top defensemen: Jr. Chad Ruhwedel, 7-15-22 (captain); fr. Christian Folin, 5-15-20 (plus-14).
Goalie: Fr. Connor Hellebuyck, 1.39 GAA, .949 save percentage, 18-2-0 with five shutouts. Named MVP of the Hockey East tournament, stopped 70 of 71 shots in last two games.
Coach: Norm Bazin, second year at UMass-Lowell. In first season, improved River Hawks win total from five to 24 -- largest turnaround ever by a rookie coach and was Hockey East coach of the year. Played for UMass-Lowell from 1990-94, later assistant at Colorado College for eight years.
Minnesotans on active roster: 0, closest is Jake Suter from Flambeau, Wis.
The quote: "The team that wins is the team that can make an important play at a crucial time,” coach Norm Bazin said according to a UMass-Lowell news release. “”It will be a fun game; it will be a challenging game. You've got to get to pucks first, both defensively and offensively. You've got to be hungry, win one-on-one battles. All of those are things that we do well.”
Intangibles: Verizon Center Arena is a short drive from Lowell, so River Hawks fans should fill up the building. ... Team has two trophies and confidence. ... Played in NCAAs last year, so players know what to expect. ... Maybe team of destiny with two firsts already, first Hockey East regular-season and tournament titles. First regional title next?
Wisconsin at a glance
Record: 22-12-7, 13-8-7 to tie for fourth place in WCHA, but won Final Five with three wins last week, including 3-2 over Colorado College in title game
NCAA history: Badgers have won six NCAA titles, startign from 1973, '77, '81, '83, '90 and 2006 ... This is 24th NCAA appearance, 40-20-2 all-time record. ... Lost to Boston College in 2010 Frozen Four in title game
Streaks: Have won six games in a row, 21-5-5 in last 31 games after a 1-7-2 start
Top scorers: Jr. F Michael Mersch, 23-13-36 (carried Badgers with scoring early in season); fr. F Nic Kerdiles, 10-22-32 (suspended first 10 games by NCAA); jr. F Mark Zengerle, 9-23-32; jr. F Tyler Barnes, 15-15-30 (seven goals in past eight games).
Top defensemen: So. Jack McCabe, 3-8-21 (captain of gold-medal winning U.S. team in World Juniors); sr. John Ramage, 8-11-19.
Goalie: Soph. Joel Rumpel, 1.85 GAA, .933 save pct., 16-8-4 with four shutouts.
Coach: Mike Eaves,11th season at Wisconsin. Led Badgers to NCAA title in 2006 when they beat Boston College 2-1 in Milwaukee.
Minnesotans on active roster: Six.
The quote: "I think that every team in this tournament can beat any other team," Eaves said. "We've seen that all year in our league and playing in our nonconference games. Any team in this 16-team tournament can win...The issue for us is maintaining what we have and keep rolling."
Intangibles: The Badgers are peaking at the right time. After averging 2.71 goals per game during the regular season, they are averaging 4.2 in five postseason games. Had to get in playoffs, one-and-done mode early because the only way they got into NCAAs was by the automatic bid which comes with winning the Final Five.
New Hampshire at a glance
Record: 19-11-7, finished in tie for third in Hockey East with 13-8-6 mark
NCAA history: This is 22nd NCAA trip and 11th in 12 years, missed 2012. .... Reached seven Frozen Fours, finished second in 1999 and 2003. ... 14-24 in NCAA games, including 0-2 vs. Denver. Lost to Pioneers 9-2 in first round in 1995 and 4-2 in seocnd round in 2005.
Vs. Denver: 4-9 all-time against Pioneers. But beat Denver 6-4 on road on Nov. 24. Fell behind 3-0 but rallied on hat tricks by Kevin Goumas and Grayson Downing.
Streaks: Inconsistent team, 3-3-4 in last 10 games. ... Have a power play goal in nine of last 10 games.
Top scorers: Jr. F Kevin Goumas, 10-32-42 (plus-18); soph. F Gryason Downing, 15-15-30; sr. F John Henrion, 14-10-24.
Top defensemen: Soph. Trevor van Riemsdyk, 7-24-31 (brother James for Toronto Maple Leafs); jr. D Erik Knodel, 10-10-20.
Goalie: Soph. Casey DeSmith, 2.24 GAA, .924 save pct., 18-9-7.
Coach: Dick Umlie, in 23rd season as Wildcats head coach. Has had 18 seasons with 20 wins at least.
Minnesotans on roster: None, closest is sr. F Scott Pavelskiof Plover, Wis. (brother Joe plays for San Jose Sharks).
The quote: "Maybe we are flying under the radar a little bit," Umlie said, "but we are capable of winning this. I don't see any dominant teams."
Intangibles: The Wildcats like being close to home, in New Hampshire. Umlie has taken a lot of teams to the NCAAs, nothing will surprise him. And Wildcats play everybody close; eight of their 11 losses were by one goal and they have seven ties.
Denver at a glance
Record: 20-13-5, 14-9-5 in conference to tie for fourth place.
NCAA history: This is 24th appearance, including six in a row. Pioneers have won seven NCAA titles, including 2004 and '05, reached 14 Frozen Fours. ... Have a good 27-19 mark, but are only 1-5 in their last six games.
Streaks: Opened season 9-1-0, then ran into a wall and went 0-5-3. Finished 11-7-2.
Top scorers: Jr. F Nick Shore, 14-19-33; sr. F Chris Knowlton, 13-16-29; (two defensemen); sr. F Shaw Ostrow, 12-11-26.
Top defensemen: So. Joey LaLeggia, 11-18-29; jr. David Makowski, 9-18-27.
Goalie: So. Juho Olkinuora, 2.28 GAA, .929 save pct., 13-5-5 with three shutouts
Coach: George Gwozdecky, 19th season. His teams won back-to-back NCAA titles in 2004 and '05. National coach of the year in 1993 and 2005, four-time WCHA coach of the year.
Minnesotans on active roster: None, but one player from Iowa and one from Wisconsin.
The quote: "You don't want to end your season like that," Gwozdecky said in a Denver Post story, referring to DU's lost to Colorado College two games to one in a first-round WCHA playoff series. "Certainly everybody on our team sees this as redemption, a second chance."
Intangibles: Is there a hex on DU, five one and dones in last six appearances? ... Pioneers had a chance to rest and heal with no games last week, so should play with a lot of energy. ... Defensemen are also dangerous. They have 32 goals and 89 assists for 121 points -- the most of any blue line corps in the nation this season.
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.
While the Gophers were splitting at St. Cloud State, the Badgers, their next opponent, were struggling to take three points from Bemidji State, now winless in 12 games (0-9-3), at home.
Wisconsin (12-9-7, 9-6-7 WCHA) won 3-2 on Saturday by taking a 3-0 lead and holding on against Bemidji State (5-17-6, 4-13-5). ... The Gophers play at Bemidji State on the last weekend of the regular season.
The Badgers, with 25 points in the conference, are now in a three-way tie for fifth, just one point behind the third-place Gophers (11-5-4), who have two games in hand on all the other contenders.
“We’ll try to win games any way we can,” assistant captain Derek Lee said in a UW news release. “I think we’ve seen in different weekends throughout the season this year that we can play at a higher level. We’re looking to do that game in and game out, so we know it’s there. We just have to harness that and bring it to every weekend.”
The Badgers have only six conference games left.
“We’ve carved out this little path for ourselves to make something here,” Lee said. “We just have to make sure we’re all pulling the rope in the same direction and ready for each game.”
Keegan Meuer gave Wisconsin a 1-0 lead after Brad Navin stole the puck from Bemidji State goalie Mathieu Dugas behind net -- watch out Adam Wilcox -- and fed Meuer in front for an open-net finish 6:24 into the first period.
The second goal came at the 12:06 mark of the opening period. Michael Mersch skated the puck out of the left corner of the Bemidji State zone, then made a cross-ice feed to a trailing Brendan Woods, who came down the slot to score back door on Dugas.
Kevin Schulze of White Bear Lake made it 3-0 in the middle of the third period when Dugas let a glove save slip out of his grasp. Schulze scored on the rebound.
Coach Tom Serratore replaced Dugas, who gave up three goals on 10 shots at that point. Andrew Walsh played the rest of the game and stopped the 10 shots he faced.
Aaron McLeod scored in front on a Beavers' power play with 2:39 left in the middle period to make it 3-1 Badgers. It was his team-leading 11th goal of the season. It also was BSU's first goal with a man-advantage since Jan. 5. The Beavers had gone 0-for-19 on the power play.
Brance Orban cut the lead to 3-2 at 3:14 of third third period with a shot through Landon Peterson's legs.
Peterson, in the net for the fourth time in five games, made 18 saves. He is 6-3-3 this season.
* Dugas made 38 saves the night before, in BSU's 2-2 tie with the Badgers. The tie was the seventh for Wisconsin in WCHA games, tying a school record.
The Badgers celebrated the 30th anniversary of their 1983 NCAA championship team with a video and introductions during the first intermission of the game. Former NHL great and a member of the 1983 team, Chris Chelios dropped the first puck.
RANKING EXCITES QUINNIPIAC
For the first time in Quinnipiac's history, one of the school's athletic teams is ranked No. 1.
The Bobcats men's hockey team is No. 1 in both major national polls.
"It’s more than impressive that in only our 15th year as a Division I program, that we’re the No. 1 team in the country,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. “I think it’s something our fans, alumni and our administration can enjoy. For us, as players and coaches, we’ll enjoy it for about 15 minutes and get ready to play St. Lawrence.”
Quinnipiac is 21-3-4 overall and 14-0-2 in the ECAC Hockey. The Bobcats are unbeaten in 21 games.
The Bobcats have been No. 1 in the PairWise Rankings, a system which mimics the NCAA selection committee’s criteria for the seeding of the NCAA tournament since Jan. 19, 2013.
Quinnipiac plays St. Lawrence and Clarkson in single ECAC games this weekend.
Gophers coach Don Lucia recently talked about how important the next four games are to his team. That they will decide if his team can contend for a second consecutive MacNaughton Cup.
The Gophers play at first-place St. Cloud State this coming weekend and then journey to Madison, Wis., to play the Badgers at the Kohl Center on Friday and in an outdoors game two days later at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The Badgers got off to an awful start with key injuries, a star freshman being suspended. Even one of coach Mike Eaves' assistants, Bill Butters, quit abruptly.
But Eaves has righted the sinking ship. Wisconsin had an 11-game unbeaten streak (7-04) until losing 4-1 to North Dakota on Saturday before 11,962 at The Ralph in Grand Forks.
The Badgers (11-9-6, 8-6-6) gave up a power-play goal in the first minute and another later in the opening period. UND was 2x8 on the power play, Wisconsin 0x5.
Goal-scorers for UND were Mark MacMillan, Joe Gleason and Michael Parks (two).
Here is an interesting stat: When UND took a 2-0 lead against the Badgers, it was the first time in 17 games they had trailed by two goals.
After falling behind 4-0, the Badgers finally scored on Mark Zengerle's goal.
Last weekend's meetings were the 162nd and 163rd between Wisconsin and UND. But they have agreed to play each other in nonconference games next season when UW joins the Big Ten Conference and North Dakota the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
BIG WIN FOR UND
North Dakota really needed the win on Saturday. The team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux was on a five-game winless streak (0-2-3) -- it's longest in 10 years.
Parks, obviously, had a big game for them. The sophomore forward from St. Louis, Mo., had missed 18 of the first 19 games with injuries but has five goals in 11 games since his return.
"It's very important,'' UND coach Dave Hakstol said of the getting contributions from Parks and others. "We have to get scoring throughout our lineup. That's something that hasn't happened over the last three weeks.''
UND's slide began at Mariucci last month when the Gophers beat North Dakota 5-1 and then tied UND 4-4.
North Dakota (14-8-6, 9-5-6) is tied for third in the WCHA race with the Gophers and Denver going into a road series at Nebraska Omaha. One of the games is outdoors.
Wisconsin is in sixth, but just two points behind the traffic jam in third. The Badgers play Bemidji State at the Kohl Center this weekend.
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