CINCINNATI — A week ago, Wisconsin won a dramatic game that helped the University of North Dakota get into the NCAA tournament.
Mark MacMillan scored the go-ahead goal with 1:44 left, Rocco Grimaldi tacked on two empty-netters to finish a hat trick and UND upset a senior-laden, top-seeded Wisconsin team 5-2 in the first round of the Midwest Regional in U.S. Bank Arena.
UND (24-13-3) advanced to the regional final for the ninth time in 11 years and will play against second-seeded Ferris State at 4:30 p.m. today (ESPNU) with a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four in Philadelphia on the line.
Michael Parks had a goal and an assist for UND, which helped continue the trend of No. 4 seeds winning in the NCAA tournament. This marked the ninth year in a row that a fourth-seeded team has knocked off a top seed dating back to the Holy Cross upset of Minnesota in Grand Forks in 2005.
“A lot of people around the NCAA probably didn’t expect us to win this game,” MacMillan said. “There’s a lot of confidence in our locker room. We know what we’re capable of. Tonight shows us exactly that. We’re confident we can move forward. We have a great team to play against in Ferris tomorrow.”
On the winning goal, Parks got the puck to O’Donnell, who was standing at the right point. O’Donnell ripped a shot to the top of the crease, where MacMillan was battling with a pair of Badger defenders. The puck glanced off of MacMillan’s rib and past Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel (30 saves).
“It was a bit of a lucky one,” MacMillan said. “I saw Odie (O’Donnell) get the puck on the blue line. He made a great play. I was just trying to go to the net. It was a lucky one, but obviously, we’ll take it.”
The Badgers pulled their goaltender twice in the waning moments, but Grimaldi put away two empty-netters. The first one came on a blind backhand from inside the zone that happened to go on net. The second one he outskated the defense and tapped it in for the final margin.
The loss ended the season in heartbreaking fashion for the 24-11-2 Badgers, who had nine seniors and expected to make a run at the national championship just like they did with older teams in 2010 and 2006.
“At the beginning of the year, we set out to win a national championship,” Wisconsin senior Jefferson Dahl said. “We came up short today. The group of 26 guys in our locker room has gone through a lot together.”
UND, the final at-large team to get into the NCAA tournament, never trailed in the game.
It got off to a quick start, scoring just 5:06 into the contest.
MacMillan, covering the point for a pinching Troy Stecher, made a great hold at the line and sent the puck back down below the end line. Drake Caggiula picked it up off the wall and hit Parks cutting to the net. Parks got Badger goaltender Joel Rumpel to go down, then moved it around him to make it 1-0.
Then, the Badgers tied it up after a tough two-minute sequence for UND.
Bryn Chyzyk appeared to put UND ahead 2-0, but his goal was called off for interfering with the netminder and Chyzyk was tossed in the penalty box. At the end of the power play, Jordan Schmaltz missed a poke check and freshman forward Jedd Soleway sniped one off the post and in for his first-career goal.
UND regained the lead at 6:45 of the second period when Grimaldi intercepted a pass by Badger defenseman Jake McCabe in the neutral zone and used his speed to create space and a scoring chance. Grimaldi sent a backhand just inside the post.
The Badgers evened it again midway through the third period when a puck took a strange hop inside the zone and two UND defenders and one Wisconsin forward skated past it. Senior Tyler Barnes picked it up and sniped a shot glove side on Gothberg at 9:32.
But UND, which outshot the Badgers 27-13 in the final two periods, came back down and scored the winner.
“Very determined effort by our hockey team tonight,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought our players really stuck with a good mentality and played a good 60 minutes. It was everything we thought that game would be. Wisconsin is an outstanding hockey team. Give credit to a lot of guys in our locker room for staying with a 60-minute hockey game, staying determined and finding a way to move on.”