With its Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship hopes riding on the line, the No. 6 Wisconsin men's hockey team traveled to North Dakota for a series with the Sioux. Unfortunately for the Badgers, (16-8-2 WCHA, 21-10-3 overall) they mustered just one league point with a loss and a tie, meaning the best they can do in the league is finish in a tie for second.
Playing a Saturday/Sunday afternoon series due to a high school tournament being held at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Badgers fell 4-2 in the first game of the weekend.
North Dakota (12-12-2 WCHA, 17-13-2 overall) got on the scoreboard first at the 6:12 mark of the opening period, but Badger junior defenseman Tom Gilbert answered shortly thereafter.
Sophomore forward Ross Carlson gave the Badgers their only lead of the weekend with less than six minutes to go in the period when he found a way to beat Sioux sophomore goalie Jordan Parise.
But the lead lasted merely one minute and 30 seconds as North Dakota sophomore forward Erik Fabian scored for the Sioux.
Senior defenseman Matt Greene got the game-winner for the Sioux midway through the second period.
The Badgers fought hard through the third period, but the Sioux were able to keep them off the scoreboard. North Dakota added an empty-net goal late in the game to win 4-2, nabbing two league points.
\We didn't come ready to play in the first two periods,"" Badger sophomore forward Andrew Joudrey said. ""They stepped up the physical (play) and we backed down. You can't do that in this league and especially against this team. And because of that, it's the reason we lost.""
The two teams gritted it out again Sunday afternoon, skating to a 1-1 tie.
The Badgers appeared to take the lead minutes into the game, but an apparent goal was waved off. Instead, the Sioux took the lead with just minutes remaining in the period.
Wisconsin tied it up midway through the second period when Gilbert got his second goal of the weekend. After sophomore forward Andy Brandt failed to score on a wrap-around attempt, Gilbert one-timed the rebound into the net.
Not even five minutes of overtime could help the teams break the tie as they each gained one point in the WCHA standings.
The Badgers' struggles on the power play continued as they went a combined 0-for-9 on the man-advantage.
It is at this point in the season that a team hopes to be playing its best hockey, which has to be a concern for the Badgers. They are 2-4-2 in their last eight games, with just one more weekend before the postseason begins.
""As a team, I don't think we've been very consistent,"" Badger senior goalie Bernd Br??ckler said. ""We look passive out there. We look like we're waiting for things to happen for us, and it just didn't.""
Br??ckler made 44 saves this weekend while allowing four goals.
The one point weekend leaves the Badgers four points behind Denver and Colorado College, who play each other in a series next weekend. The season finale will decide this year's WCHA champion and winner of the MacNaughton Cup.
On the Badgers' heels is Minnesota, who sit three points back. The Badgers will need to gain at least two points at Minnesota-Duluth next weekend, or hope that the Gophers drop two points at Michigan Tech next weekend to clinch third place.
-USCHO.com contributed to this report