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No.8 Wisconsin and its improbable run finally ended. After winning three games in three days to win the school's first (and last) WCHA tournament title since 1998, the Badgers fell to third-ranked UMass-Lowell, 6-1, in the NCAA Northeast Regional semifinal. It was the largest margin of defeat UW had all season, as UW's first four goals it gave up occurred because of odd-man rushes.
What's the Impact
Wisconsin's 24th official appearance in the NCAA tournament didn't last long, losing in the first round for only the third time since the NCAA instituted the single elimination format in 1992 and the first since 2005. Wisconsin (22-13-7) played brilliantly to get into the tournament, but simply ran into a tougher club.
Who was the Weekend MVP The River Hawks had a lot of experience on its lines and defense, but the best player on the ice was River Hawks freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck. Stopping a first-period penalty shot and finishing with 31 saves, UMass-Lowell (27-10-2) relied on him the entire game and he didn't falter. UW's third-period goal ended Hellebuyck's shutout streak at 165 minutes, 20 seconds.
Three Areas of Excitement Moving Forward
Veteran Bunch: Although Wisconsin loses two-year captain defenseman John Ramage, he's one of only three seniors graduating, meaning UW will return an extremely veteran squad next season. If no players make the leap for the pros, Wisconsin will have 10 seniors on the team, the most since finishing runner-up for the national title in 2010.
Kerdiles Finishes Strong: Scoring the team's lone goal, freshman Nic Kerdiles finished the season scoring in 12 consecutive games (6-13=19), 16 of his last 17 games and 18 of his last 20 contests. He finished with 33 points in 32 games as a freshman. Just think what he would have done had he not been suspended the first 10 games of the season. Kerdiles – an Anaheim draft pick - seemed committed to returning next season.
Big Ten on the Horizon: Wisconsin will be one of the favorites to win a lot of hardware next season, including the inaugural Big Ten championship in the hockey league with Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State. While the WCHA had seven teams finish above .500, only two Big Ten finished above .500.
"I thought for our group, a little atypical of the amount of scoring chances we gave up in the line rush," said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves. "We saw more 2-on-1 against us that I have seen in an awhile. I was surprised by that. We were almost trying too hard … We battled, we created some scoring chances, but we couldn't pull any tighter.
"The guys fought to their last breath."