Badgers Tie It Up Late Before Kloos Wins it in Overtime
Madison, WI – Just seven games ago, after a resounding 8-3 loss to Ohio State on December 3rd, the Gophers looked as inconsistent and apathetic as could be. An average 7-5-2 start had the team in NCAA tournament position, but firmly on the bubble.
What a difference a winning streak makes.
Six games and six wins later, the Gophers traveled to Madison riding a winning streak that vaulted them into middle-seed contention in the Pairwise rankings. Minnesota found a way to push the streak to seven on Friday night, getting a gutty OT goal from Justin Kloos to move the Gophers up to 5th in the Pairwise and in first alone in the Big Ten standings.
Minnesota (14-5-2 Overall, 6-1-0 B1G) came out like a top seed in the first period, jumping all over the Badgers (10-8-1, 3-2-0) and collecting an impressive 18-6 shots on goal advantage in the opening frame. The Gophers scored twice in the period, with Leon Bristedt opening up the scoring at 4:30 from Jack Sadek and Justin Kloos, and Mike Szmatula giving Minnesota a two goal lead from Taylor Cammarata and Ryan Lindgren at 11:42. The Maroon and Gold continued to dominate the period but could not increase their advantage beyond two, and that gave the Badgers some life heading into the second.
Wisconsin cut the lead to one at 2-1 almost immediately when Luke Kunin’s turnaround shot beat Eric Schierhorn at 0:53. Szmatula looked to have scored his second of the night on a great hustle play by Kloos at 12:36 of the second, but the referees instead nullified the goal and whistled Kloos for a slashing minor on the play. Kloos was not happy, and came out of the box motivated to make the referees pay, but the Badgers’ Matt Ustaski scored off a deflection to tie the game at 2-2 at 17:02. In the final minute of the second, though, Tyler Sheehy netted his team-leading 15th goal of the year off a great pass from Brent Gates to put the Gophers ahead 3-2 going into the third period. Mike Szmatula also assisted on Sheehy’s goal.
Minnesota looked to be playing not to lose in the third period. Just like you’d expect, that never ends well. The Badgers gained momentum from rushes and shots throughout the final stanza, and finally got a goal from Trent Frederic at 9:21 to tie the game at 3-3. From then on, both teams had rushes and chances, and there were great defensive plays on either end to keep the puck out of the net. As the third drew to a close it was still 3-3, so the two teams headed to overtime.
Just 1:43 into the OT, Justin Kloos gathered a Tyler Sheehy pass as he streaked down the right-wing boards and into the offensive zone. Kloos cut to the crease and was able to lift the puck past the Badgers’ Jack Berry to give Minnesota the 4-3 win.
The Gophers will look to improve their winning streak to eight in a row as they battle the Badgers in Madison again tomorrow evening. The game is a 5PM puck drop due to Hockey Day Minnesota festivities, and can be seen on Fox Sports North, streamed on BTN2Go or Fox Sports Go, and heard over the air on MyTalk 107.1.