Minnesota and Wisconsin hit the ice for the third of four meetings this season at the Kohl Center on Friday, and Minnesota was looking to improve upon their third-place showing in the WCHA race for a home playoff berth. Wisconsin entered the game in a three-way tie for fifth by points, but as the league’s seventh seed, or a first round road berth if the season ended prior to Friday night. Adam Wilcox got the start in net for Minnesota while Wisconsin countered with Joel Rumpel.
The opening minute of play required that each team start with its basics, and it allowed UW’s Mark Zengerle to lob the first shot in on goal. Shortly thereafter, UW’s Joel Rumpel stopped Seth Ambroz in a fashion similar to that of an acrobat. At 2:20, shots favored Wisconsin by a 2-1 count but the game was still scoreless and early on, the game had the feeling of being scoreless for a fair bit of time.
There were no penalties in the first five minutes of action, which meant that the players could settle things on the ice, as it should always be. Up to the first television timeout, shots on goal favored Minnesota by a 5-4 count.
The second quarter of the period was much quieter in nature, but there’d be the occasional hit behind the nets. Each team however was playing fairly even. At the 11:52 mark, Minnesota’s Nate Condon had a memorable breakaway, but it was only memorable in the fact that Joel Rumpel absolutely stoned Condon on the effort.
The rest of the first period was spent probing by each team, who had chances on each end to make things happen. Shots were 12-7 in favor of the Gophers, but the road team surrendered the first goal at 14:32 when Nic Kerdiles lit the lamp on even strength. Kerdiles had help from Mark Zengerle and Tyler Barnes.
The Badger student section came alive after the goal, ribbing Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox whenever they were able to. The game would become physical in the late going of the first twenty minutes. At 17:30, the physical play led to a Badger penalty as Frankie Simonelli was given two minutes in the sin bin for holding.
Minnesota’s first power play of the night was craftily defended by the Badgers, but Sam Warning was able to tie the game with a rebound at 18:51. Ben Marshall and Mike Reilly assisted Warning with the game tying effort.
Shots at the end of the first twenty minutes favored Minnesota 20-9, with the Gophers going 1-1 on power plays.
Period number two started just like any other period of play, and Wisconsin had two shots on goal in the first ninety seconds. Each team was looking for the illustrious “next goal,” but it wasn’t coming early in the period. At 5:23 of the second period, coincidental roughing minors were called against Minnesota’s Christian Isackson for roughing and Wisconsin’s Derek Lee for roughing.
The penalties were allowed to expire without a team scoring, which left overall shots at 24-15 in Minnesota’s favor. The game was getting even more physical as the middle canto dragged on. The Gophers and Badgers would slow to a stalemate with shots at the 32:14 mark only 24-16 in Minnesota’s favor.
As five minutes remained in the second period, Minnesota could smell blood in the Wisconsin end, firing chance after chance at UW’s Rumpel. A double-minor was called at 14:46 against UW’s Joseph LaBate, giving Minnesota four minutes to work with hooking and tripping minors.
The pace of play was picking up after the penalties, but yet the game was still tied and Wisconsin was about to kill off the double-minor. At 18:12 however, Minnesota took a 2-1 lead on a power play goal from Nick Bjugstad. Bjugstad’s goal had assists from Nate Schmidt and Erik Haula.
Shots were 31-19 in Minnesota's favor through forty minutes, and Minnesota was 2-3 on the power play. Something interesting to note: The Gophers hadn't taken a penalty through forty minutes.
The third period started slowly, but at sixty-one seconds in, Minnesota's Sam Warning took a point blank shot only to be denied by Rumpel in net for the Badgers.
At 2:27, Minnesota's Jake Parenteau would be called for cross checking, finally giving Wisconsin a power play. The Badger power play clearly wasn't ticking, as they had a hard time setting up in Minnesota's zone. The Badgers had one shot on goal.
Shots on goal were 34-21 in favor of the Gophers with just under a football quarter to play in Madison. As the game drew towards fifty minutes old, the Gophers still had the speed to skate yards beyond Wisconsin, but as the Kohl Center crowd knew, one goal would change everything.
Shots were 35-24 with 9:54 in favor of Minnesota, and Wisconsin looked lackadaisical at best. At 10:50, Wisconsin's John Ramage drew an interference minor which gave Minnesota its fourth power play of the night.
At 12:48 of the third, Minnesota extended their lead to two when Seth Ambroz scored on the power play. Ben Marshall and Nate Condon assisted Ambroz in his effort.
Down the stretch in Madison, shots favored Minnesota 43-26, and there were only five total penalties called in the game. Wisconsin would use the extra attacker for the final 2:58, but it would prove to be inconsequential in terms of the result. With 1:02 left, Wisconsin's Tyler Barnes tallied Wisconsin's second goal through the legs of Adam Wilcox. Jake McCabe and Derek Lee assisted Barnes on the goal.
Shots at game's end favored Minnesota 43-30, and power plays had Minnesota at 3-4 and Wisconsin at only 0-1.
Minnesota and Wisconsin are using Saturday as a travel day as the teams take part in the Hockey City Classic down at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Badgers and Gophers are set to drop the puck at 4:30pm ET on Big Ten Network, or when the Notre Dame-Miami game comes to a conclusion. The ND-Miami game will air at 1pm ET on FOX Sports North.
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!