Few gave Wisconsin much chance to win this weekend at No. 5 Denver, and they had every reason to think the Pioneers would easily sweep this series after the Badgers lost twice at home to Minnesota State and slipped to 1-7-2 and winless at home.

But good teams must put away struggling ones early or face the consequences. Any team playing Wisconsin needs to get an early lead and put them at a disadvantage their struggling offense can’t overcome.

The Pioneers didn’t do that, having to rally late for a 1-1 tie Friday and never led in a 3-1 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, which snapped an eight-game winless streak for the Badgers.

Understandably overlooked is Wisconsin’s defense, which hasn’t allowed more than five goals in a game. Badgers goaltender Landon Peterson went more than a month without a start, but he’s allowed just seven goals in the four games since with a .941 save percentage.

Joel Rumpel, yanked after a three-goal first period against MSU, stole the show on Friday. He made 29 saves and was 1:16 away from a 1-0 shutout before Joey LaLeggia tied it.

Friday’s game was an example of why Wisconsin is where it is in the standings. A good defense is undone by an offense which can’t cash in.  Even with the returns of key offensive players, the Badgers likely won’t catapult into the top half of the standings but they’ll continue to steal points from the WCHA’s best teams because of strong defense and goaltending.

UND escapes the Springs with two points

Dillon Simpson saved what looked to be a lost weekend for North Dakota on its trip to Colorado College.

One night after losing 5-3, UND was down 2-1 going into an offensive-zone faceoff with 47 seconds left. A loss would’ve put them in the bottom half of the WCHA standings, but Simpson sent the game to overtime at the 19:47 mark and Drake Caggiula scored the game-winner 51 seconds into overtime.
Fifty-nine minutes and 13 seconds passed between Corban Knight’s goal 34 seconds into the game, a fluky one bouncing in off a CC defenseman’s skate, and Simpson’s equalizer.
The gap was especially trying judging from the shots on goal edge with  UND enjoying an 89-46 edge for the series. But when it really mattered, the final 64 seconds of the game, UND had all four shots and two were goals.

Williams stonewalling opponents

Freshman goaltender Stephon Williams is a lot better since he became the regular starter for Minnesota State a few weeks ago, than he was in his first two starts. This isn’t an anointing, but it’s fair to give this guy a look.

He earned his first shutout against Bemidji State on Friday and almost got another Saturday. Williams has taken over the No. 1 job after he replaced Phil Cook during the first period of a Nov. 9 loss to Denver.

Before that game, he gave up five goals on 40 shots in two games. Since the Nov. 9 game, Williams is 4-1 with eight goals allowed and a .938 save percentage.

Williams protected 3-2 leads for a total of 53:23 against Wisconsin and came up with a few highlight saves in high-pressure situations.

Yes, Williams saw just six shots through two periods Saturday and he’s faced the two weakest offenses the last couple weekends (he’ll face the third weakest this weekend when Alaska-Anchorage goes to Mankato).

But stretches like these can be a confidence builder for a goalie, which will be important when MSU travels to Nebraska-Omaha before the holiday break.