Minnesota and Wisconsin took their series to a whole new level, and the game site was one hundred and fifty two miles southeast of the Kohl Center. The teams played outdoors at the Hockey City Classic on Sunday, and the goaltending matchup was much the same in net as it was Friday with Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox getting the nod against Joel Rumpel for Wisconsin.
The puck dropped in Chicago, and the first couple of minutes were spent feeling the opponent out, as well as the ice surface. The ice at Soldier Field was of the NHL variety—at two hundred feet long by eighty five feet wide.
Minnesota sustained its first real big pressure on Wisconsin at just past four minutes, but yet the game was still scoreless. There were also no penalties in the first few minutes of play.
Each team was focused on playing its own game on the opponent’s perimeter, but there were occasional grade-A chances that were taken by both teams. Shots were 5-1 in Minnesota’s favor through the first eight minutes, and the first major event of the game happened after the eight minute mark. At 8:39, Wisconsin thought they had the first goal but it was immediately waved off due to a high stick.
Shots were 8-3 in Minnesota’s favor in the first ten minutes, and the game pace was picking up much like that of an indoor game.
The first penalty of the game went to UW’s Frankie Simonelli at 11:46 for tripping, giving Minnesota a power play to work with. The Badgers would use their penalty kill to keep the game scoreless, but Joel Rumpel made a big save off Nick Bjugstad’s big drive at the 13:14 mark. Minnesota’s Zach Budish and Wisconsin’s Jake McCabe would be called for roughing. The Gopher power play ended without a goal and the shot count at 12-3 in favor of the Gophers, who were the road team on Sunday.
As the first period came to an end, the game was scoreless. Shots were 15-6 in Minnesota’s favor, with Minnesota at 0-1 on completed power plays through twenty. Minnesota’s Nate Schmidt would be called for a cross check at 19:11, giving Wisconsin an extended power play into period number two.
The second period started with the continuation of the Schmidt cross check for Wisconsin, but the Badgers could not really get anything going offensively. At the 2:13 mark, Wisconsin’s Mark Zengerle hit the crossbar on a beautiful shot from in close. Not long after, at 2:33, Minnesota drew a penalty as Jake McCabe would go to the box for holding.
The Gopher power play would do little to break the deadlock, though Christian Isackson got the best shot on goal which didn’t beat a sprawling Joel Rumpel. Shots were 18-7 in Minnesota’s favor through the first twenty-six minutes of play, and it seemed as though neither team were intent on scoring.
At the 8:25 mark of period two, a ruckus started right in front of Adam Wilcox’s net. Penalties that stemmed from it were roughing calls to Minnesota’s Seth Helgeson and Wisconsin’s Sean Little. During the four player time just before thirty minutes overall, Minnesota’s Erik Haula had the best chance for the Gophers that was saved by Rumpel.
Shots were 20-9 through thirty-one minutes to Minnesota, but the game speed was as quick as ever at the midway point.
Wisconsin struck first when Kevin Schulze put a puck on net at the 13:03 mark of the second period. Schulze’s even strength goal was credited as an unassisted goal.
Soon thereafter, at 14:13, Wisconsin’s second even strength goal was scored when Brendan Woods took a tip-in off an original shot from John Ramage. That, in theory, deflated the Gophers and all of the maroon and gold in Chicago.
As if the dominoes kept on falling, Wisconsin’s Sean Little banged in goal number three at 16:22 of the second period. Little had an assist on the even strength goal from Jefferson Dahl. It, in all honesty, was a pretty play and exactly what you do on a loose garbage puck.
At 18:34, Minnesota's Nate Schmidt took a cross checking penalty that was of the garbage nature. You're down three goals--don't make matters worse. Wisconsin's second power play, which would extend into period three, and Minnesota was 0-2 on power plays through forty minutes. Shots had Minnesota at 27-16 through forty minutes.
The third period started like the second period ended, with Wisconsin taking more of the time in Minnesota's zone. However, at 2:36, Minnesota finally lit the lamp via a Seth Ambroz even strength goal. Ambroz was assisted by Justin Holl and Christian Isackson.
As the first half of the third period dragged on, there weren't many more highlights to mention, but the "Jump Around," a long standing Badger tradition, made its way to Soldier Field at the first television timeout.
At 6:06, Minnesota's Brady Skiej would draw a two-minute slashing minor, giving Wisconsin a power play which was their third on the day. Shots were 6-0 in the period, favoring Minnesota to the 7:06 mark of the third period (33-16 Minnesota overall).
As the final ten minutes started to bleed off of the clock, Minnesota needed to play with vigor to get back in the game. Neither team was shooting the puck for the next five minutes in the final frame. Late in the game, Minnesota's skaters were making mental errors like illegal hits (looking at Seth Helgeson specifically) that Adam Wilcox would need to bail the Gophers out of. Shots were 33-18 with fifty-five minutes in the books to Minnesota.
At the end of the game, Minnesota had no more options than to pull Wilcox with 2:19 left in the game. Something of note: All four goals in the game to the 18:18 point in the third were of the even strength variety, but at 18:18, Minnesota scored their second goal of the game with the extra attacker, as Zach Budish took assists from Nick Bjugstad and Erik Haula to come within one.
At the end of the "Gopher-gut wrencher," shots favored Minnesota 38-19, with the Gophers at 0-2 on power plays. Wisconsin was 0-3.
Minnesota comes home this week to prepare for another key in-state rivalry as the 2011 NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs come to Mariucci Arena for a double-dip. Both games start at 7pm.
Geoff Discher is Examiner.com's Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey Examiner as well as the National College Hockey Examiner. Leave a comment below, or feel free to reach him at Disch61@hotmail.com with comments, story ideas, or any general talk surrounding college hockey. You can find him on Facebook as well by clicking here as well as here and joining the conversation from the social media side as well. He's always chock full of fact and opinion. I’m also on Twitter @GophHkyExmnr. Check it out!
Until next time, I'll see you at the rink!