Gophers Score in Bunches, Early and Late, Sweep Bucky with Blowout
Plenty of Gopher offense, plenty of cheap shot Badger play…some things rarely change in this rivalry. The Gophers jumped out to an early lead against a struggling & disinterested defensive team (usually known for its defense), withstood some sloppy play in the middle, and put their foot on Bucky’s throat late, to the tune of a 9 – 2 win on Saturday night. The win keeps the Gophers alone in first place in the Big Ten conference, and boosts their confidence going into an extremely important (read: Pairwise) non-conference set next weekend.
The first period was good for Gopher fans, but it was just as much bizarre as anything else. It started off as good as can be for Goldy, as they basically won the faceoff, Hudson Fasching bulled his way to a 2 on 1 rush and beat Matt Jurusik long side, to continue his torrid scoring streak. The Badgers answered with a couple of nice shifts, but their gap coverage in the neutral zone was awful and the Gophers were having little difficulty getting behind the Badger defense. Justin Kloos took advantage, basically replicating Fasching’s goal but from the other side of the ice.
Jurusik was pulled, and in came Adam Miller. Mattered little; Ryan Norman quickly put Goldy up 3 – 0, taking the puck out of the corner and slipping a backhand short side.
Oddly enough, while the Badgers were down and playing awful on the defensive side, their forwards were still skating well. After a couple of nice shifts, and Eric Schierhorn leaving his net twice (almost causing goals against both times), it felt like the Badgers were in the game. But Aidan Cavallini decided he had enough for the night, and drilled Tommy Novak from behind, into the boards, right in front of one of the referees. With Cavallini headed for the shower, Taylor Cammarata made it 4 – 0 when he was left alone in front, a result of the Badgers chasing the puck too much while on the PK.
Miller was now out, and Jurusik was back in. This time is seemed to matter. The Badgers came out with a purpose in the 2nd period, and it was as bizarre as the first period. The Gophers were far too relaxed, and really didn’t push back much in the first 10 minutes of the period. The Badgers scored their first goal of the weekend off of a double deflection, credit going to (after a scoring change) Cameron Hughes. They kept pushing but the Gophers held off and finally evened the ice back out.
Leon Bristedt put the Gophers up 5 – 1, but just 20 seconds later, Gopher killer Grant Besse made it 5 – 2 after some extra sloppy play behind the Gopher net left him wide open coming down the slot. The Gophers barely held off the Badgers at the end of the period and it felt like the third would be tense and violent as the teams were starting to get pretty chippy.
And while the Gophers ended up blowing the Badgers totally out of the water, the last stanza was not without issue. The Gophers, as expected, settled things down after intermission. After going up 6 – 2 and basically icing the game, Tommy Novak was drilled at center ice by Badger captain Eddie Wittchow. Wittchow left his feet and nailed Novak with a shoulder to the head, which – from TV – looked like it knocked Novak out immediately. He was given a DQ which means he misses their next game and should be a couple more.
The Gophers tallied a few more – including a full 3rd period hat trick from Michael Brodzinski – and everyone calmed down/avoided what could have been some more dirty play.
To cap it off…it was a good weekend. Road sweep against your main conference rival. Five game win streak and first place in hand overall. The final non-conference series is next weekend as they participate in the annual North Star College Cup at the Xcel Energy Center. Bemidji State is up on Saturday, and they will play either St. Cloud or Mankato on Sunday.