Madison, WI- Not long ago, a 3-1 Wisconsin win would have meant a slogging, painful game in which the Badgers rope-a-doped a couple goals and packed the slot in order to eke out a victory.
Under third-year head coach Tony Granato, the defend-and-grind style is no longer welcome in Madison.
The Badgers did just eke out a victory to even the series Saturday against the Golden Gophers, but they did so in style.
Both teams played a hard-fought, high-energy game with plenty of quality scoring chances and great goaltending. Wisconsin scored the go-ahead goal with just under 10 minutes left in the 3rd, and tacked on an empty-netter after a furious late Minnesota charge to seal the victory.
The Gophers (2-4-1 Overall, 1-1-0 B1G) took an early lead, converting in the first minute of a 5-minute powerplay chance. Brannon McManus scored his third goal of the season on a hard shot from the right-wing dot that deflected off a Badger stick and into the net. Sammy Walker and Tyler Nanne assisted on the goal at 11:15 of the first.
Minnesota couldn’t dent the twine again on the man advantage, and Wisconsin (5-5-0, 1-1-0) struck back on a 4-on-3 powerplay chance later in the period, when Sean Dhooghe redirected a Wyatt Kalynuk shot from the slot past Gopher goalie Eric Schierhorn and into the net at 18:00 of the first.
Despite a flurry of chances on both ends and two powerplay opportunities apiece, the next thirty-odd minutes of hockey were scoreless. The teams were knotted at one, and both goalies played well enough to deserve to win. The Badgers went up for good at 10:20 of the third when Josh Ess scored his first of the season on a hard wrister from the point that snuck past a screened Eric Schierhorn and into the net.
The Gophers put the full-court press on in the final 10 minutes to try and tie the game, but Wisconsin’s Daniel Lebedeff stoned Minnesota down the stretch to win the game and even the series for the Badgers. Lebedeff made 32 saves on 33 shots to lead Wisconsin to victory, while Schierhorn made 29 saves on 31 shots in the tough-luck loss.
Minnesota returns home to Mariucci Arena next weekend to take on St. Lawrence University in a non-conference matchup. The games will be the Gophers’ first of the season against a non-ranked opponent. The puck drops at 7PM Friday the 16th and can be seen on FSN+, streamed on Fox Sports Go, and heard over the air on AM1130.