MANCHESTER N.H.—After an impressive run through the WCHA Tournament, the team’s first Broadmoor trophy in over a decade and a spot in the NCAA tournament that nobody could have predicted a few weeks ago, the 2012-’13 Badgers season finally came to an end.
Fourth-seeded Wisconsin (13-8-7 WCHA, 22-13-7 overall) fell 6-1 to No. 1 seed Massachusetts-Lowell (16-9-2 Hockey East, 27-10-2) in Manchester, N.H., Friday in the opening round of the 16-team NCAA tournament.
The Hockey East-champion River Hawks capitalized on several breakaways and odd-man rushes—a result of breakdowns in the Badgers’ normally stout defense—to put Wisconsin in a hole it simply could not get out of.
“I really think that our guys tried too hard,” head coach Mike Eaves said after the loss. “They were stepping in areas and moving outside the dots and doing things we haven’t seen in a long time. And in some instances they tried to do too much, and that caught up with us.”
Lowell junior forward Joseph Pendenza put the River Hawks on the scoreboard first at the 7:11 mark in the first period, but the Badgers had plenty of chances to counter. Junior forward Jefferson Dahl had UW’s best opportunity in the first when he was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway.
Dahl streaked in on River Hawks freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck but was unable to life the puck over the 6-foot-4 netminder.
Things took a turn for the worse in the second period for Wisconsin, as it allowed two more goals to fall behind 3-0 going into the third period.
In the final period, UML sophomore forward Scott Wilson took a penalty to put the Badgers on the power play, and they were finally able to capitalize. Freshman forward Nic Kerdiles ripped a shot from the slot that bounced between the legs of Hellebuyck, who never saw it.
With the goal, UW looked re-energized and put together a couple more quality scoring chances but kept coming up empty. On a penalty kill, senior defenseman John Ramage found himself alone in front of Hellebuyck, but the senior sailed the puck over the net.
A few moments later, Kerdiles received a feed right in front of the UML net, but the puck hopped over his stick and he was never able to get a shot off.
“I don’t think so ... I think in the middle of the third period, it’s 3-1, we score a goal, give ourselves some energy,” Eaves said when asked if his team ran out of gas late in the game. “I think the goal gave us some energy, but it was getting out of that hole that we couldn’t do.”
After the Badgers failed to convert on these chances to cut their deficit any further, the River Hawks went into another gear and put the game out of reach. UML junior forward Derek Arnold scored on a two-on-one break to push the Lowell lead to 4-1 before freshman forwards Adam Chapie and Ryan McGrath both scored in the final minute to seal the team’s 6-1 victory.
“They played hard. They played as a team,” Ramage said of the River Hawks. “They know what it takes to win. We had our chances—we definitely had chances to score and make it a closer score than it seemed on the scoreboard. But the better team won.”
Wisconsin did outshoot Lowell, 36-32, but defensive breakdowns and odd-man rushes ultimately sealed the Badgers’ fate.
After the game, Eaves remained proud of his team and the run it made late in the season to win the WCHA conference and make the NCAA tournament.
“The guys fought until their last breath.”