Men's hockey: Badgers claim point

Wisconsin guts out tie in hard-fought series finale with North Dakota

The University of Wisconsin men's hockey team wrapped up its daunting February schedule with a 1-1 tie with host North Dakota Sunday afternoon. The game was high on drama, if low on scoring.

Each team had opportunities in the third period and overtime to secure victory but could not persuade the puck to dance its way.

In overtime, UW junior defenseman Tom Gilbert, who scored the Badgers' sole goal Sunday, had his shot from the slot glance off the cross bar, careening to the ice, where it teetered on the brink of goal line.

North Dakota sophomore netminder Jordan Parise did not know where the puck had settled, but he discovered it before any of the Badgers closing in on his crease could edge it into the net. Parise pounced on the puck and covered it to ward off danger for the Sioux.

Also in overtime, Wisconsin senior goaltender Bernd Bruckler made a solid save but the rebound bounded to sophomore forward Chris Porter, who was left with a picturesque scoring chance. Porter's shot, though, went wide, hitting the outside of the net.

Late in the third period Badger freshman forward Matt Auffrey worked his way to a point blank scoring opportunity, got Parise to over commit and promptly fired the puck off the cross bar.

The one that got away, however, was a goal that probably should have counted. Sophomore forward Jake Dowell appeared to give the Badgers the lead in the first period, but the officials determined that he had directed the puck into the net with his skate. The puck clearly bounced off Dowell's skate and into the net. It did so as the result of a deflection, however, and likely should have counted because of its unintentional nature.

Nevertheless, the game finished tied 1-1, as a result of sparkling play from Parise and Bruckler. Parise, who was uncharacteristically playing on consecutive days, made 26 saves, befuddling a struggling Badger offense that only managed three goals against him all weekend.

Bruckler was sturdy between the pipes for UW, allowing just one goal while collecting 18 saves in regulation Sunday.

Both Bruckler and Parise made five saves in the overtime session.

The tie moved Wisconsin ever-so-close to clinching third place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while doing the same for North Dakota's shot at fifth place and the all-important home ice advantage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

Wisconsin (16-8-2 overall, 21-10-3 WCHA) needs a win at Minnesota-Duluth next weekend or a Minnesota loss to Michigan Tech to secure third place. After taking three of four possible points from UW, North Dakota (12-12-2, 17-13-4) needs a tie at St. Cloud State or a Duluth loss or tie versus Wisconsin to clinch the No. 5 seed for the conference tournament.

The Badgers were reminded this weekend how difficult it can be to play in Ralph Englestad Arena, in Grand Forks, N.D. The tie snapped Wisconsin's four-game losing streak at North Dakota.

UND got on the board first Sunday, when freshman forward Travis Zajac converted a 2-on-1 opportunity, beating Bruckler at 3:24 in the second period.

Gilbert, though, tallied the equalizer less than six minutes later, on assists from sophomore forward Andy Brandt and Auffrey.

It was Gilbert's third consecutive game with a point – he also had a goal in UW's loss to UND Saturday.

While Gilbert has been on a roll, much less can be said for the Badgers' power play, which was stagnant again Sunday, going 0-for-4. UW is now 1 of 29 with the man advantage over the past six games.

For the second consecutive series, Wisconsin's leading scorers – sophomore wing Robbie Earl and freshman center Joe Paveski – were held in check. Earl put just one shot on goal Sunday and just three all weekend, though he did notch one assist Saturday. Pavelski had a pair of assists Saturday, but was held scoreless with just one shot on goal Sunday.

The tie brings the gauntlet that was February to a close for the Badgers. UW had the other four teams among the top five in the WCHA over the past four weekends: Minnesota, Denver, Colorado College and North Dakota. The Badgers finished the month 2-4-2.

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