Senior Bernd Bruckler returned to prime form between the pipes for the Badgers and made 25 saves, but the bigger story was at the other end of the ice. Sophomore goalie Jordan Parise made 33 saves, including some big-time efforts to keep the Badgers from coming back against the Sioux.
Two first-period goals for North Dakota gave the Sioux momentum early and they did not look back. The Badgers managed to dig themselves a hole early as the Sioux capitalized on an odd-man rush just 1:22 into the game.
Forward Travis Zajac carried the puck into the zone and passed it to forward Drew Stafford. Stafford then dished it across the zone to linemate Brady Murray who buried the puck before Bruckler could slide over to make the save, giving the Sioux the early 1-0 lead.
At 13:08 in the first period, North Dakota caught another lucky bounce and added to their lead. After a favorable bounce off the boards, forward Brian Canady picked up the puck with a two-on-one chance. He converted, getting the puck across to forward James Massen, who netted the puck as Bruckler had no chance to make a save.
The Badgers quickly answered back, however, thanks to a gritty effort from forward Robbie Earl. After laying an enormous hit just inside the blue line, which kept the puck in the Badger zone, Earl got back up and skated toward the net.
Freshman forward Joe Pavelski found Earl to Sioux goalie Jordan Parise's left side. Parise made the save on Earl's forehand shot, but the puck found its way back to Earl's stick and he backhanded it past Parise to cut the deficit in half at 15:41 in the first. It was Earl's 20th goal of the season.
The Badgers outshot the Sioux 11-7 in the opening 20 minutes, but went into the locker room down 2-1.
The Badgers carried that shooting advantage into the second period. This time they outshot the North Dakota 14-9, but neither team could get on the board.
Wisconsin got its best chances during a power play late in the period in which the Badgers saw four-on-three and five-on-four advantages. But Parise was solid in net, bailing out his Sioux teammates.
The Badgers nearly tied it up less than 30 seconds into the third and final period. Off a faceoff, Joe Pavelski launched the puck, which ricocheted off the crossbar and behind Parise, who dove on it as Earl crashed the net to no avail.
Instead, it was North Dakota's Colby Genoway adding to the Fighting Sioux's lead with a one-time wrister from the top of the left circle past the stick of Bruckler, who may not have even seen the puck.
The goal came following a controversial power play, when Jeff Likens was called for a questionable roughing infraction.
The Badgers took another penalty less than a minute later, but it worked out for them as captain Adam Burish scored on a shorthanded breakaway where he faked out Parise and shot the puck through the netminder's legs, again cutting the lead to one goal at 3-2.
With 1:39 remaining, the Badgers called timeout and pulled Bruckler for an extra attacker, but not even that was going to help them tie the game.
Parise proved to be too much for the Badgers as they dropped yet another one-goal game. Parise was just another netminder in a string of hot goalies the Badgers have faced in the recent past.
North Dakota moves on to play Denver Friday afternoon, while the Badgers will have to wait until Sunday morning to learn their fate. The NCAA tournament field of 16 will be announced at 10 a.m. on ESPN2. UW finished the evening in a two-way tie for 15th in the Pairwise rankings. With at least two automatic bids set to go to conference champions who are outside the top 16, the Badgers have to hope that the action the rest of this weekend edges them into the top 14, or that the selection committee does not rigidly follow the Pairwise.
Five Badges earn WCHA honors
Five Badgers represented Wisconsin on All-WCHA teams, which were announced Thursday. Bruckler and Earl were named to the second team, while junior defenseman Tom Gilbert was a third-team selection. Forward Joe Pavelski and defenseman Kyle Klubertanz were named to the rookie team. This is the first time since the 1999-2000 season that Wisconsin has had a goalie, defenseman and forward on a WCHA team in the same year.