MADISON, Wis. – Down 3-1 in the third period of Friday’s game, No. 18 Wisconsin (12-10-7, 9-7-7 WCHA) had a season-high 13,611 fans at the Kohl Center on the edge of their seats while pressing for a comeback bid. The Badgers pulled their goaltender with just under three minutes left in regulation, got to within one goal, but fell short in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of No. 2 Minnesota (20-5-4, 12-5-4 WCHA).
The game sets up an anticipated rematch on Sunday, when the teams meet at Soldier Field in Chicago in the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic.
Five Badger penalties proved the difference on the night, as they translated into four Minnesota power plays, and three power-play goals for the Gophers, who entered with the nation’s third-best power play (32-for-127).
Minnesota ended the night outshooting Wisconsin 43-to-30, with 14 of those shots coming on the power play alone.
“They’re all like starting quarterbacks,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said of Minnesota’s power play. “When a guy has the puck, he has the ability to have vision and make plays. They can work both sides, which makes it difficult to kill.”
Wisconsin entered the game with the eighth-best penalty kill in the WCHA at 81.2 percent (82-for-101), but was unable to endure all four power-play opportunities on the night.
Despite the special teams performance, Wisconsin played toe-to-toe with highly-ranked Gophers, outscoring Minnesota 2-0 with the teams’ playing at even strength.
Barnes felt the team closed with momentum with which the Badgers can start up from on Sunday.
“I thought our whole team came together at the end,” Barnes said. “We really played hard. We had our goalie pulled for three minutes and we were able to sustain pressure and get some quality chances.
“It’s hard to take satisfaction in anything right now, but looking back I think it could be something we could focus on.”
Wisconsin scored first on the night at the 14:32 mark of the first period, as Nic Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif.) made a quality reception on a backdoor feed from Mark Zengerle (Rochester, N.Y.) and finished past Wilcox for the score. Barnes was also credited with an assist, as the Badgers took a 1-0 lead.
The Gophers responded with their first power-play goal of the night on their first-power play chance when Sam Warning finished off a rebound at 18:51 of the period.
After Joseph LaBate (Eagan, Minn.) was called for both hooking and tripping on the same shift, Minnesota gained its second and third power plays of the evening with about five minutes left in the second period.
The Badgers killed the first two minutes and were building momentum and getting the crowd involved with solid short-handed play, but Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad fired a one-time that deflected off the shot-block attempt of UW’s Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, Wis.), off the post and in. The goal came at 18:12 of the second period to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead.
A third Minnesota power-play goal, this time from Seth Ambroz, made it 3-1 at 12:48 of the third period. The goal made the Gophers 3-for-4 on the night with the man advantage.
Joel Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan) finished the game with 40 saves, including 19 in the first period, but earned his seventh loss of the season (6-7-4).
“He was on his toes (early) because there was a dumped puck and he raced like a banshee to the corner, got it, and made the right play,” Eaves said of Rumpel. “I said, ‘he’s ready to go.’ That was a tell tale sign he was ready early in the game.”
Eaves hoped his Badgers would take the positives, learn from the mistakes and be ready to go in the second game of the series on Sunday.
“There are lessons learned from this game,” Eaves said. “We have that natural reaction that we have to go in there, fix those things, and play a better game.”
Following Notre Dame and Miami at noon, Wisconsin and Minnesota play in the second game of a double header at the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic on Sunday. Faceoff is set for 3:30 p.m. (CT). The game will be broadcast live on BTN.
Wisconsin Athletic Communications Department
Photos courtesy of Badger247 photographer Elliott Connor.
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