If the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team is to continue its run through the playoffs it will need its best people to continue playing at their best.
That will the prime factor when fourth-seeded UW faces top-seeded St. Cloud State Friday afternoon in the WCHA Final Five semifinals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
A loss means the Badgers (20-12-7 overall) are done for the season.
A win over the Huskies (23-14-1) will keep UW in the NCAA tournament pool for another day and put it in the Final Five championship game for the first time since 2000.
The Badgers, who haven't won the Broadmoor Trophy as playoff champion since 1998, have become a dangerous opponent because their once-loathsome offense seems to be catching up with their high-grade defense. After whipping Minnesota State-Mankato 7-2 in the quarterfinals Thursday, they've scored 36 goals in the last nine games (4.0) to go along with the No. 4 defense in the nation (2.05 goals per game).
Leading the way is the top line of freshman left winger Nic Kerdiles, junior center Mark Zengerle and junior right winger Tyler Barnes. Over the last 11 games they're a combined 15-31-46 and are a plus-35. It breaks down like this: Kerdiles 4-11-15, plus-9, Zengerle 4-12-16, plus-13 and Barnes 7-8-15, plus-13.
Meanwhile, sophomore goaltender Joel Rumpel is unbeaten in his last seven outings away from home and has won six straight on the road. Overall away from home this season Rumpel is 7-2-2 with a 1.51 goals against and 95.1 save ratio.
The UW lineup:
Note: Kerdiles had a team-best seven shots in the win over Mankato.
F Joseph LaBate-Brendan Woods-Michael Mersch
Note: LaBate had a goal vs. Mankato, but also took two poor penalties.
F Ryan Little-Jefferson Dahl-Sean Little
Note: Dahl has two SHGs this season and UW four overall. Opponents have none.
F Brad Navin-Keegan Meuer-Matt Paape
Note: Meuer continues to play well on the penalty kill.
D Jake McCabe-Frankie Simonelli
Note: McCabe (lower body issue) played sparingly in third period vs. Mankato.
D Kevin Schulze-John Ramage
Note: Duo was a combined plus-7 with six blocked shots vs. Mankato.
D Eddie Wittchow-Joe Faust
Note: Faust was plus-2 and blocked two shots vs. Mankato.
Note: Hasn't lost a road game since November.
The St. Cloud lineup:
F Kalle Kossila-Drew LeBlanc-Jonny Brodzinski
F Ben Hanowski-Nic Dowd-Jimmy Murray
F Nick Oliver-Cory Thorson-Brooks Bertsch
F Joey Benik-David Morley-Garrett Milan
D Andrew Prochno-Nick Jensen
D Kevin Gravel-Tim Daly
D Taylor Johnson-Ethan Prow
G Ryan Faragher