The border war between No. 10 Minnesota and Wisconsin continued Friday night as the Golden Gophers used a strong second period and defensive discipline to overcome the Badgers 3-0. Low score notwithstanding, this game met all the criteria for one of the most bitter and storied rivalries in college sports.
Each team exhibited passion and determination, making for a physical game. The Badgers’ spirits, however, dropped after allowing UM its first goal, which came shorthanded midway through the second period. The Golden Gophers did not allow their interstate rivals a reason to regain confidence, stifling all of Wisconsin’s scoring chances.
“When the goals don’t come it makes it really hard,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said. “You could feel when we got scored on the [power play] the bench dropped a little bit, and when they scored that second one it dropped.”
“It seems like every time we get scored on we just fall apart,” said Badger defenseman Dan Boeser. “We’re not that talented a team where we can come and play one and a half periods and win.”
Minnesota (8-4-4, 5-2-2 WCHA) finished with its first shutout of the season as the Badgers’ scoring woes continued. Wisconsin (5-10-0, 1-6-0 WCHA), second to last in the conference in goals per game, went scoreless for the second time this year despite registering 31 shots.
“I don’t think we’ll ever be a real high scoring power team, but we’re going through a real drought,” Eaves said. “We’re not getting any reward for our efforts, the reward being goals.”
Wisconsin’s power-play unit entered the night having only scored on 1-of-31 opportunities and again failed to produce. The Gophers, third in the WCHA on the penalty kill, withstood being a man under for almost seven minutes of the game and notched a shorthanded goal.
The hardest job likely belonged to the referees, who handed out a total of 17 penalties on the night (six for roughing). In addition to the penalties, the refs were on their toes breaking up potential fights between the rivals.
The first period lacked goals but not excitement. Fans of each school saw several tense moments as multiple turnovers led to prime scoring opportunities for both teams.
An errant Badger pass that ended up on the stick of Gopher Thomas Vanek in the UW zone almost put Wisconsin in a one-goal hole early in the period. A 2-on-1 rush that ended in a shot by Badger freshman A.J. Degenhardt came close to doing the same to Minnesota. On each play, the puck deflected off the post.
Minnesota went on the offensive several times in the first and kept UW goalie Scott Kabotoff moving. Despite the consistent pressure and plethora of shots, however, the Gophers could not produce any points.
The second period filled the scoring void thanks to two goals from the Gophers. The Badgers’ difficulties on the man advantage were taken to a new level as UM’s first goal came shorthanded at 12:40.
Defenseman Chris Harrington started the scoring after receiving the puck at the far edge of the faceoff circle from Nick Anthony. Harrington wound up for the shot before the pass was off, rifling a slapshot that Kabotoff did not see coming.
“What was disappointing about that goal was the fact that we got outworked,” Eaves said. “Our backcheckers didn’t do the job; that was a defenseman that beat us up the ice and scored.”
Gino Guyer notched his seventh goal of the season at 6:19 to put his team up 2-0. Defenseman Matt DeMarchi sent a pass to the middle that the freshman fired into the net.
Only moments later Badger Rene Bourque backhanded a rebound into the Gopher net. The Kohl Center erupted and the UW band started playing before it was made known that a hooking penalty on Harrington had stopped play before the score.
Minnesota got its last goal from Dan Welch. With half a minute left, the junior left wing scored on a far wrist shot that seemed to catch Kabotoff off-guard.
“Coach went over everything he needed to, there was nothing surprising,” said Badger freshman Adam Burish. “We just didn’t execute.”
The win brings the Gophers one step closer to regaining the top-5 ranking they held in the beginning of the season, and aids in their quest to make a run for a second straight national championship. Wisconsin, on the other hand, needs to worry about working its way out of the WCHA basement.
Wisconsin and Minnesota will continue their heated rivalry Saturday night at 7:05 at the Kohl Center in Madison.
“Until we play three periods we won’t win a game,” Boeser said. “That’s the way it has to be.”