The Matchup: Wisconsin vs. UMass-Lowell
When: Friday, March 29, 3:30 p.m. CT
Where: Manchester, N.H.- Verizon Wireless Arena (10,019)
Ice Sheet: 200' x 85'
Radio: WIBA-AM 1310
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads 7-1-1
Last Meeting: Wisconsin W 3-2 (12/4/1988)
About the River Hawks:
Record: 26-10-3 (16-9-2 Hockey East)
Head Coach: Norm Bazin, second season (50-23-4)
Notable: The River Hawks claimed the first Hockey East title in program history last weekend. Sophomore defenseman Jake Suter is a Wisconsin native and son of former Badger standout Gary Suter.
Points: Joseph Pendenza- 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists)
Goals: Scott Wilson and Riley Wetmore- 15 goals
Assists: Joseph Pendenza- 23 assists
Save Pct.: Connor Hellebuyck – .949
Goals Against Average: Connor Hellebuyck – 1.39 GAA
Record: 22-12-7 (13-8-7 WCHA)
Head Coach: Mike Eaves, 11th season (231-166-51)
Notable: The Badgers are making their 24th official appearance in the NCAA tournament. UW is 9-4 in the tournament under Eaves. Wisconsin will once again be without the services of center Derek Lee.
Points: Michael Mersch – 36 points (23 goals, 13 assists)
Goals: Michael Mersch – 23 goals
Assists: Mark Zengerle – 23 assists
Save Pct.: Joel Rumpel – .933
Goals Against Average: Joel Rumpel – 1.85 GAA
Quick analysis: Goals will be at a premium in this one. Both teams are sound defensively and each squad is led by a young goaltender.
For Lowell, freshman netminder Connor Hellebuyck and been stellar in his inaugural campaign. He is 18-2-0 between the pipes with a microscopic goals against average of 1.39 and stops 94.9 percent of the shots he faces. Both marks were tops in Hockey East this season.
As for the Badgers, it begins and ends with Joel Rumpel. The sophomore goaltender has emerged as the go-to guy down the stretch and will undoubtedly be one of the keys to success in New Hampshire.
The smaller ice sheet should play into the Badgers‘ hand from a style standpoint. It suited them well in St. Paul and it ought to be an advantage once again this weekend.
The x-factor will be special teams. Wisconsin’s power play unit found itself, in some ways, during the WCHA Final Five, picking up a pair of goals over the three-game span. On the flip side, the Badgers had trouble staying out of the box at times last weekend. Though the penalty kill did a fine job of responding, now is not the time to play with fire.
One of the beauties of a smaller tournament field is first round matchups, such as this one, that pit two conference champions against one another. This contest should provide some exceptional hockey.
Prediction: Wisconsin 2, UMass-Lowell 1.