If you look closely at the artwork on Joel Rumpel’s new helmet, you’ll see the junior goaltender for the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team has a neat tribute to his uncle.
On one side is a black-and-white image of Roy Schultz in action during his days as an All-American puck-stopper at UW from 1978 to ’80. He wore No. 27 — which shows up prominently in the caricature — and his career average of 31.9 saves per game is still tops in program history.
It’s a cool gesture, but Rumpel delivered one that was a bit livelier Saturday night, turning away 20 shots to help the third-ranked Badgers ease past Northern Michigan 2-1 and finish off a productive weekend at the Kohl Center.
An announced crowd of 9,516 saw UW follow up a 5-2 triumph Friday night with one that produced its first sweep of the Wildcats since November of 1996 and its first 2-0 start to a season since 2004.
Rumpel fought the puck more than he wanted — bobbling multiple shots that led to rebound chances and some angst for UW coach Mike Eaves — but Rumpel said the only goal he allowed came off a deflection and he was thrilled to be able to give his uncle a keepsake memory.
“I definitely wanted to get a win while he’s in the building,” Rumpel said. “It’s the first time he’s watched me play now for a couple years.”
The Badgers are highly regarded this season because of their numerous veterans, especially at forward, but the savior this night was rookie left winger Grant Besse. He accounted for the decisive goal with 3 minutes, 35 seconds left, finishing off an odd-man rush by finding, controlling and banging home his own rebound.
Afterward, Besse got a nice nod and a flattering prediction courtesy of Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle.
“If you want to take the difference in the two games, I think their top-end forwards proved that they were high-end forwards,” Kyle said of the Badgers.
As far as Kyle is concerned, Besse was in that category before he became the first UW rookie to score goals in his first two games since Kyle Turris in 2007.
“He’ll get 15 (goals) this year,” Kyle said of Besse. “They got a good one there.”
Sophomore center Nic Kerdiles added the other goal for the Badgers, extending his point streak to 14 games dating back to Feb. 24 of last season.
One night after collecting a pair of assists, Kerdiles moved into the top 10 of the longest point streaks in program history when he scored at 8:11 of the first. He zigged and zagged through the neutral zone with the puck, crossed the blue line and leaned into a low slapper that clipped the stick of defenseman CJ Ludwig and beat goaltender Michael Doan (27 saves) between the pads.
The conversion gave Kerdiles 22 points during the streak (7 goals, 15 assists) and turned out to be one of the few mistakes Doan made.
“I feel pretty comfortable right now,” Kerdiles said.
The Wildcats pulled even with 9:20 remaining in the third when defenseman Luke Eibler launched a shot from the right point that handcuffed Rumpel. He said the blast changed direction slightly after it hit the stick of UW senior center Mark Zengerle.
Eaves said Rumpel played an average game mainly because he struggled later in the game to control loose pucks around the net.
“It seemed many times during the night that when he went to put his glove on the puck it squirted away and he had to make three or four more saves because of that,” Eaves said.
Besse credited senior right winger Michael Mersch for a hit in the neutral zone that created the 2-on-1, but Besse coolly played his part after Doan denied the initial shot.
“It hit off my shin pad, came right back down to my stick, the goalie was out of the net,” Besse said. “I was able to slide it home.”
Not everyone can do that.
“He has that innate ability,” Eaves said of Besse. “It was a goal-scorer’s goal.”
Northern Michigan 0 0 1 — 1
Wisconsin 1 0 1 — 2
First period: W — Kerdiles 1 (LaBate), 8:11. Penalties: Kerdiles, W, 11:47; Epps, NM, 16:42.
Second period: Penalties: Baker, NM, 2:52; Barnes, W, 7:50; Sooth, NM, 12:43.
Third period: NM — Eibler 1, 9:20. W — Besse 2 (Mersch, Faust), 16:25.
Saves: NM (Doan 12-7-8) 27; W (Rumpel 7-5-8) 20.
Power plays: NM 0-for-2; W 0-for-3. Att. — 9,516.