8-1 Saturday Win Moves Wisconsin Into 1st Place in Big Ten
Minneapolis, MN – The biggest series of the season thus far pitted first-place Minnesota against second-place Wisconsin. The Gophers maintained a five-point lead in the conference standings over the Badgers, and a home sweep would have put Minnesota in the driver’s seat to capture the regular season Big Ten title.
Wisconsin had other ideas.
The Badgers’ top players came to play, as first round picks Cole Caufield and Dylan Holloway led Wisconsin (13-7-0 Overall, 11-5-0-1 B1G) to a road sweep of the Gophers (15-5-0, 11-5-0) to jump into the lead in the conference standings.
The two games really could not have been much different, with Friday a tightly contested matchup between two good hockey teams, and Saturday a one-sided romp.
Caufield, the NCAA’s leading goal scorer, got Wisconsin on the board first Friday with a breakaway goal just 1:04 into the first period.
Wisconsin held the lead until 8:08 into the second, when Sammy Walker tied the game at 1-1. The teams battled neck and neck throughout the second and into the third, where it looked like it would be a dogfight to the finish.
Wisconsin broke it open late in the third, though, with Caufield scoring on a 2-on-1 at 13:00, Holloway adding a goal just 42 seconds later (and drawing a powerplay on the play), and Wisconsin’s Roman Ahcan scoring on the ensuing man-advantage to extend the lead to 4-1.
All told, it was three Wisconsin goals in 138 seconds to turn a nailbiter into an easy victory for the Badgers.
Saturday was anything but thrilling for Gopher fans. Jaxon Nelson took a 5-minute major just two minutes into the game, putting Minnesota down a man and perhaps more importantly losing the Gophers’ one of their best penalty killers for the rest of the game.
Wisconsin scored once on the five-minute major, but the Gophers almost immediately took another penalty after the first expired, and the Badgers scored on that one, too.
Ben Meyers got Minnesota back in the game with a goal at 14:08 of the first to draw the Gophers back within one, but Wisconsin scored less than two minutes later to regain their two-goal lead heading into the second.
A goal in the first minute of the 2nd chased Gopher goalie Jack LaFontaine, and Jared Moe came in for the rest of the period, giving up two more goals in the process to see Minnesota fall behind 6-1 going to the third.
Minnesota’s Justen Close made his Gopher debut in the third, but Minnesota gave up two more goals to end the game with an 8-1 defeat.
The Gophers will look to move on from this series, with another weekend set next weekend versus the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The Irish also swept Minnesota at Mariucci Arena the last time these two teams played. Notre Dame is currently in third place in the Big Ten, six points back of the Gophers and seven back of first place Wisconsin.
Friday’s game is at 6:30, and is on NBC Sports Network, streamed on NBC Sports App, and can be heard on AM1130. Saturday’s rubber match is a 4:30 matinee, and is not not TV, can be streamed on the NBC Sports App and heard on AM1130.