How does the winningest goalie in the Big Ten stack up to some of the other top college goaltenders in the nation? I caught up with Wisconsin junior goalie Joel Rumpel and asked him that question before his Badgers take the ice against Ohio State tonight at 9 p.m. ET on BTN/BTN2Go as part of our Big Ten men’s hockey Frozen Friday doubleheader.
A Saskatchewan, Canada native, Rumpel is 10-1 this season as the Badgers’ starting goaltender. He also ranks second in the Big Ten in shutouts (1) and save percentage (.932).
As for our Frozen Fridays, get ready at 6 p.m. with “Frozen Friday Face Off” with Rick Pizzo and Paul Caponigri, then catch our “Frozen Friday Final Rush” at 11:30 p.m. with complete highlights. Tonight’s first game features in-state rivals Michigan and Michigan State. The puck is set to drop at 6:30 p.m.
BTN.com: Growing up in Saskatchewan, how did you end up at Wisconsin?
Rumpel: That’s a great question. I was playing juniors in British Columbia and had a few good seasons there. A Wisconsin coach came out there and saw me play and was impressed. My uncle, Roy Schultz, used to play there and he would tell me stories about the school. So, when they came to check me out, I already knew the great history and the tradition of Wisconsin’s hockey program. I came down on my visit and I fell in love with it. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
BTN.com: You’ve been a starter since you arrived in Madison your freshman season. How do you rate your progression since you arrived as a freshman?
Rumpel: It honestly feels like night and day. Coming in and playing in front of thousands of fans as a freshman was a little intimidating. It’s very different when you haven’t ever seen something like that before. But now, it’s much more of a confidence thing. I’ve gained a lot of confidence through the years and have played enough games and against enough teams to know what it’s all about.
BTN.com: Outside of your uncle, does your family have much of a hockey background?
Rumpel: Not really. My cousins played and my brother and dad played growing up, but that’s about it. My little sister is a college athlete. She runs track and field at Regina. She steals my glory a lot of times.
BTN.com: As you know, the Big Ten is loaded with talented goalies from top to bottom this season. How do you think you stack up against some of them?
Rumpel: Another great question. I’ve played against most of them. I’m real familiar with Adam Wilcox at Minnesota, he’s a great goalie. The thing is that when you play against these guys on a weekly basis, it keeps you working hard and motivated to be the best in the league. When Big Ten play began, I didn’t know what to expect. But now, playing against some of the best teams and goalies in all of college hockey, you know you’re going to get a good battle every night. As a player, that’s what you look forward to.
BTN.com: Great question, but even better answer. Now, let me ask you, playing in the Big Ten against all these great teams, what are the expectations for your team this season?
Rumpel: We have high expectations this season. We are a lot older and a lot more mature. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have our eyes set on going all the way. We want to be on top of the league and we strive to win every game we play.
BTN.com: Growing up in Canada, I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share of great hockey. Is there a certain goalie in the NHL who you try to model your game around?
Rumpel: Yes, if I had to pick one it would definitely be Patrick Roy. He’s a big guy like me, and he was one of the first great butterfly style goalies, which I am as well. He had great quickness and reflexes, which is something that I focus on. He also played for the WHL team where I am from, so I watched him a lot growing up and tried to learn from him.
BTN.com: What do you like to do outside of hockey for fun?
Rumpel: Well, as a team, we like to go bowling every Sunday. I’m still getting used to playing with 10 pins.
BTN.com: As oppose to?
Rumpel: We play with five pins in Canada. I had never played 10-pin bowling until I got to Wisconsin. It’s a whole new game for me. It took me a while to get used to it, but I’m starting to get better and getting the hang of it now.
BTN.com: That’s a great story. Anything else unique about yourself that the average person wouldn’t know?
Rumpel: Well, I’ve had a bit of tough luck when it comes to injuries. My first time I ever got stitches was when I was 18 years old, playing junior hockey. I was the backup goalie and was wearing the half-shield visor for protection. The very first shift of the game, I was sitting on the bench and the puck came right to my gate. A stick whacked me in the mouth and I wasn’t even on the ice. I needed to get four or five stitches right above my chin. It was kind of tough to explain that I got the cut from playing hockey, when really, I wasn’t even playing at the time. Kind of embarrassing.
BTN.com: Another great story Joel. Final question for you — Who was or is your mentor in this sport.
Rumpel: That has to be my uncle Roy. He played for Wisconsin in the late 70’s and early 80’s and was an All-American goalie in 1980. We were from the same town, so he was actually my goalie coach growing up and taught me so much of what I know about the game. He’s a huge reason for my success.
|About Sean Merriman||BTN.com web editor Sean Merriman covers football and men’s basketball and provides original content for BTN.com. You can follow him on Twitter @BTNSean.|