MINNEAPOLIS — A year ago, the matchup between Joel Rumpel and Adam Wilcox was worthy of the marquee at Mariucci Arena and a national TV audience.
Both goaltenders — Rumpel with the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team and Wilcox with Minnesota — were ranked in the top 10 nationally in save ratio and goals-against average in addition to being Hobey Baker Award finalists.
But when they squared off in a Big Ten Conference series opener here Friday night, the numbers suggested Rumpel and Wilcox were struggling and, by extension, so were their teams.
For 65 minutes that notion was dispelled, certainly where Rumpel is concerned. He proved worthy of any promotional display as UW rallied for a stirring 2-2 overtime draw with the 16th-ranked Gophers before an announced crowd of 10,263.
Rumpel equaled a career-high with 47 saves and got some help in the third period when the Badgers erased a two-goal deficit. He then held down the fort in the shootout, allowing only one goal as UW won it and came away with the extra point for the league standings.
Sophomore right winger Grant Besse and sophomore right winger Jedd Soleway scored goals in the third period for the Badgers, while Besse and sophomore left winger Morgan Zulinick converted in the shootout.
UW also held the most productive power play in the nation without a conversion in five tries, including an extended 5-on-3.
Besse, from nearby Plymouth, met the media sporting a red hard hat, symbolic of his all-around night. In addition to a team-high six shots, he had two blocked shots on a night when the Badgers were outshot 49-20.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said of the headwear, passed along by Rumpel, the previous winner. “I think a better feeling is knowing we were able to make a comeback.”
The Badgers (2-12-3 overall, 0-2-1 Big Ten) were overwhelmed in the early going and gave Minnesota two quick cracks on the power play at blowing things open, but Rumpel spent the night showing his numbers are largely the byproduct of the youth playing in front of him.
Rumpel, a senior, came into the weekend ranked 69th nationally in save percentage (89.9) and goals-against average (3.35). A season ago he finished at 92.9 and 2.07, respectively.
Wilcox, a junior, is coming off a year in which he showed 93.2 and 1.97, respectively. He came into the series at 91.0 (40th) and 2.51 (50th), respectively.
The Badgers could easily have been run out of the building in the first period had Rumpel not been on his game. Minnesota, using its superior speed and skill, had an 18-0 advantage in shots at one point.
“We stood around and we got schooled in every aspect in that first period,” UW coach Mike Eaves said.
“I was just trying to hold my own as long as I could,” Rumpel said.
Said Besse, “There were a couple things you could blame it on, but we were able to get through it.”
Minnesota (10-8-1, 1-2-2) assumed the lead at 8 minutes, 14 seconds when center Travis Boyd pressured junior defenseman Eddie Wittchow into a turnover below the goal line. Boyd quickly fed left winger Sam Warning, unattended at the hash marks, for the conversion.
The trend continued in the scoreless second period. The Gophers didn’t get as many scoring chances, but the ones they had were high-grade.
Rumpel got some help early in the second when freshman defenseman Jack Dougherty snuffed out a tic-tac-toe passing play by blocking a shot by center Justin Kloos at the right post.
It was 2-0 midway through the third when UW, 0-11 this season when trailing after two periods, cranked up its most impressive comeback of the year.
Besse hauled in a cross-crease feed from freshman center Adam Rockwood and beat Wilcox and, 1:57 later, Soleway finished off a pretty rush with a tap-in at the right post.
“We had plenty of chances to be up more than we were,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “Give Rumpel credit, he was outstanding. He played extremely well.”
Rumpel said his outing was different than his 47-save, 2-0 win vs. Michigan Tech on Jan. 3.
“It wasn’t as hard as it looked,” he said. “It was a different game. I don’t even know how to describe it.”
Wisconsin 0 0 2 0 1 — 3
Minnesota 1 0 1 0 0 — 2
First period: M — Warning 6 (Boyd), 8:14. Penalties: Wittchow, W, 3:46; Hughes, W, 8:29.
Second period: Penalties: Marshall, M, 10:27; Soleway, W, 10:27.
Third period: M — Fasching 6 (Bischoff, Kloos), 6:51. W — Besse 4 (Rockwood, LaBate), 11:09; Soleway 4 (Hughes, Zulinick), 13:06. Penalties: Schulze, W, :09; Dougherty, W, 6:51; Navin, W, 7:10; Kloos, M, 14:43.
Shootout: M — Rau (NG), Ambroz (G), Leo (NG). W — Zulinick (G), LaBate (NG), Besse (G).
Saves: W (Rumpel 19-9-14-5) 47; M (Wilcox 3-7-6-2) 18.
Power plays: W 0-for-1; M 0-for-5. Att. — 10,263.