Madison, WI – After an emotional and hard-fought weekend, the Minnesota Gophers (16-7-5 Overall (3-0 OT), 7-5-2-4 B1G 29 pts) came out of Badger weekend with a win and a tie against #4-ranked Wisconsin (20-6-2 (2-1), 10-3-2-1 35 pts).
Typically, a result like that on the road would be something to celebrate. However, two controversially-disallowed goals Saturday took away a win from a clearly stronger Gopher squad, and after Minnesota failed to score in the overtime period, they obviously lost the shootout after failing to score (just like every other shootout this season).
Friday’s game started out strong, with Minnesota playing one of its better periods of the season. Oliver Moore scored 7:28 of the first to give the Gophers an early 1-0 lead. The 1-0 lead held until early in the third, when Owen Lindmark tied the game after a broken play out front of the Minnesota goal.
Wisconsin outshot the Gophers 30-10 in the final two periods of play, but the teams entered overtime tied 1-1, and in the extra session Minnesota stole a victory. Sam Rinzel blocked a shot in the defensive zone before feeding Oliver Moore streaking up the left wing. Brody Lamb joined the rush creating a two-on-one, and Moore’s perfect cross-ice pass gave Lamb an open look on the net for the game-winning goal.
If the Gophers stole the game Friday (behind a sold Justen Close effort in net), Saturday was a masterclass by Minnesota. In Saturday’s game, it was Wisconsin scoring first to jump out to an early 1-0 lead. The Gophers dented the twine midway through the second when Ryan Chesley’s long wrister beat UW’s Kyle McClellan five-hole. Wisconsin challenged the call and the goal was disallowed due to Oliver Moore’s skates being ever so slightly in the crease. Jaxon Nelson put the Gophers on the board officially just a few minutes later at 14:33 of the second to tie the game at 1-1.
In the third period, the Gophers scored late with what looked like the game-winning goal when Mason Nevers beat McClellan clean on a wrister. However, the referees waived the goal off on the ice due to Jaxon Nelson being pushed into the UW goalie a bit earlier in the play. McClellan was able to recover and square up to the shot prior to the goal, but the call was made on the ice as no-goal and upheld after Minnesota’s challenge.
The game went into OT 1-1, and no team scored in the three on three extra session. In the shootout, Minnesota did not score and Wisconsin scored on both of their chances to earn the extra conference point.
Justen Close earned the #1 Big Ten star of the week for his efforts, stopping 62 of 64 shots on the weekend.
From a Pairwise standpoint, the Gophers earned 2/3 of a win for Friday’s OT victory and 1/2 of a win for the Saturday tie. In the conference, though, the teams split three points each. A disappointing result after a strong weekend performance on the road against a very good Wisconsin team.
Minnesota is now 7-2-1 over the 10 games since the holiday break, and is trending in the right direction. Two wins against Penn State are a must if Minnesota wants to keep any hopes of a Big Ten title afloat.
Up next for Minnesota is a home series against Penn State. Friday’s game is a 6PM affair, while Saturday is a 3PM matinee.