Although it was an exhibition, The Badgers and Head Coach Mike Eave’s expected better from themselves as Wisconsin fell to the U.S Under- 18 national team by a score of 1-4
“We didn’t build our fire before the game. We missed opportunities in the slot. We didn’t play to the level we wanted to.” Eaves said.
The young Badger team could not get much going after an early goal and was beat by an even younger U.S team,
“It’s a universal struggle,” Eaves explained “to get college kids ready and excited to play high school kids. We were not ready”
The Badgers got off to a hot start thanks to senior Matt Pape who found himself all alone in from of the U.S goal after a defensive miscue by Team U.S.A and tucked away a wrist shot past future badger Luke Opilka, who ended with 17 saves, at 2:48 into the game and put the Badgers up 1-0.
The youngsters for the U.S would settle down as the period went on, dominating the game for the rest of the period generating 13 shots on net in the first period to the Badgers 9.
U.S, looking to equalize went on the Power play at 9:29 after Sophomore Grant Besse was whistled and boxed for 2 minutes for interference.
U.S.A took full control in those 2 minutes, generating multiple scoring opportunities with great tic-tac-toe passing.
Rumpel stood tall, and the penalty kill for the Badgers put in the work to maintain their one goal lead.
Rumpel recorded 13 saves out of his game total 30 saves in the 1st period, none bigger than a beautiful glove snag that came off of a beautiful wrist shot from point blank range from future Badger, Luke Kunin with 1:03 left in the period that secured the Badgers a one goal advantage heading into the second period of play.
The second period of play opened with the U-18 U.S team leaving where they left off.
They came out hot dominating the Badgers in all facets of the game.
Christian Fischer, a Notre Dame recruit got a great look at the goal after receiving a beautiful pass but Rumpel was up to the challenging kicking the puck wide of the net and away from danger.
The Badger penalty kill went an impressive 2 for 2 on the night was tested as Matt Ustaski was sent away for 2 minutes for tripping at 9:16 into the period.
U.S set up shop early and often during the two minutes generating numerous great looks at an equalizer due to precision passing. Rumpel and the Badger defense came up huge and stood strong, maintaining the one goal lead.
The Badger power play unit also got its fair share of chances in the second period.
Back to back penalties gave the Badgers a great opportunity to widen the gap between themselves and the U.S team.
The Badgers went 0-3 on the man advantage for the night.
Jack Doughtery had one of the best chances as he found himself one on one with Opilka. Dougherty went backhand and managed a pretty weak shot that Opilka handled nicely.
Shortly after, Plymouth native and super Sophomore Grant Besse put a gorgeous move on his man to create space but ripped the shot just over the cross bar to keep the game at 1-0 at the end of two periods.
The third period began with the Badgers ahead in the score sheet, but with all momentum in favor of Team U.S.A.
That momentum finally turned into something tangible for the U-18 team at 3:39 when Matthew Tkachuk slid one past Rumpel off a pass from Jack Roslovic.
With the score tied at 1-1, the game hung in the balance.
At 10:33, leading point scorer for the U.S, Auston Matthews put away a power play goal after Senior Chase Drake was called for boarding, giving U.S the 2-1 lead late into the third period.
Wisconsin looked threatening, with multiple attacks on the U.S net. But a counter attack leading to a scrum in front of Rumpel gave way to future Badger, Luke Kunin to adding another to the U.S lead making the score 3-1 17:16 into the third period
Matthews would add an empty netter to end the game at a final score of 4-1.
After the game Joel Rumpel was asked to talk about his emotions.
“Angry, frustrated, mad, all of the above. You have to use that anger and frustration to get better”
The Badgers take a break from play, coming back to the ice on Jan 2nd against Michigan Tech.
A day that Rumpel says can’t come soon enough.
“Guys are already excited to get back and turn this thing around.”