first_imgWith 26 saves, first-year goaltender Joel Rumpel was critical in allowing the Badgers to pick up a confidence-building 4-1 road win over fourth-ranked Minnesota Friday.[/media-credit]Every team hopes to reach its peak form just as the postseason arrives.With the postseason at the doorstep, it looks like the Wisconsin men’s hockey team isn’t about to let the call go unanswered.The Badgers (16-16-2, 11-15-2 Big Ten) are winners of four of their last five games and are coming off a series split with the No. 4 Minnesota Golden Gophers, taking the first game 4-1 before losing the lead in the third period of game two and falling 2-1.Head coach Mike Eaves was happy with his team’s performance last weekend at Minnesota.“It was a continuation of the way we have been playing for a while,” Eaves said. “We continued to do a lot of things that we had been doing that allowed us to play at the level that we are.“We gave ourselves a chance and fell a little short, but right now that’s done with; that’s kind of in our hip pocket.”Wisconsin outscored the Gophers 5-3, and sophomore forward Mark Zengerle contributed on all five goals over the weekend with one goal and four assists.The Wisconsin defense, meanwhile, was a strong presence last weekend as well. They allowed only three goals to the WCHA’s second-best scoring offense, and they have let up only nine goals in their last five games.“As a whole, we only gave them three goals over the weekend,” Eaves said. “Against one of the higher-scoring teams in our league and in our country, that says a lot about what our defensive core did.”Wisconsin sports the fourth-least amount of goals allowed in the WCHA. A big part of the success at goaltender is the play of freshman goaltender Joel Rumpel, who has played in 23 games this season and racked up 57 saves in last weekend’s series at Minnesota.Eaves is happy with the play of his freshman goaltender and is hoping it continues into the upcoming playoffs.“It starts and ends in the pipes for us,” Eaves said. “[Rumpel] played in a real tough environment and played well, and we’re going into another tough environment. That doesn’t seem to rattle him too much; he just kind of stands in there and does his thing. So, we hope that continues.”The Badgers are now matched up with No. 10 Denver in the first round of the WCHA playoffs this coming weekend, and Eaves believes the recent success of the Badgers has given the team confidence leading into the playoffs.“[Our confidence] is legitimate,” Eaves said. “We’ve won three out of four. We were in a position to win four out of four. So I think intrinsically we understand what it takes. We just get on that plane headed to Denver and continue what we’ve been doing. But I think it’s legitimate what we are feeling inside.”Denver is currently on a three-game winning streak coming off a series sweep last weekend at Nebraska-Omaha. Wisconsin faced Denver three weeks ago in Madison where the Badgers split the series and out-shot the Pioneers 63-51.Eaves feels the Badgers’ recent meeting with Denver and the success they had against them plays to his squad’s advantage going into this weekend’s series.“The fact that we played them recently is fresh in our minds,” Eaves said. “I think that’s part of what makes our feeling legitimate, having played well here against them and taking that and using that as we go forward.“Those things add up to us having a basic feeling that we can get the job done should we continue to play like we are.”The Badgers wrapped up the regular with four straight away games for the second time in three years and will continue to play away from Madison this coming weekend at Denver.But UW is hoping the recent stretch of road games is a blessing in disguise for them in the upcoming games away from home.“We don’t control the schedule,” Eaves said. “Every other year we end up on the road. The fact that we were on the road, the fact that we are going to have to play on the road kind of lends right to itself. So we are going to look at it as a positive.”last_img