The Badgers had to put on their rally caps in Minnesota after being dominated for two and a half periods and out shot forty-nine to twenty.
The Badgers did not roll over and found a way to tie up the game late in the third at 2-2 and to eek out a shoot out victory in their first of two games against the sixteenth ranked Golden Gophers from Minnesota in a contest that lived up to the “Border Battle” hype
The Gophers looked dangerous early generating a great chance within the first minute of the game.
Kyle Rau ran into Rumpel and the puck knocked softly off the post and trickled around the goal line before Rumpel swatted it out of harm’s way.
After Travis Boyd won the puck below the goal line on a fore check he found a wide-open Sam Warning right in front of Joel Rumpel and put the Gophers up 1-0 with 11:46 left in the first period
The Badgers struggled to get anything going mustering only three shots on goal during the first period.
The best of these three chances came from former Minnesota Mr. Hockey, Sophomore Grant Besse.
Besse received the puck right past the center ice line and went one on one with defender Mike Reilly.
Besse used slick stick handling to turn Reilly around and ripped a wrist shot past Adam Wilcox but right on the crossbar to keep the Badgers down 0-1
The Gophers would take the 1-0 lead heading into the second period. That came very close to changing after a great team play by the Gophers.
Kyle Rau stole the puck from Chase Drake who dished it to Connor Reilly who then found Justin Kloos back door for an open net goal until defensemen Jack Dougherty did his best Rumpel impression and kept the puck out of his net.
The Gophers remained on the attack for the majority of the period but Rumpel stood on his head denying every chance the Gophers could muster. Rumpel had twenty-eight saves after two periods.
“Joel got us through that period” said Head Coach Mike Eaves,
“Joel gave us a chance”
The Badgers managed to get seven more shots on goal in the second period.
The best being an open look for Brad Navin that Adam Wilcox blocked with the tip of his stick to keep the lead for his team.
Navin found himself all alone as line-mate Matt Ustaski let a puck slide between his legs and onto the oncoming Navin.
Besse added a couple of great chances of his own but the Badgers could not steal an equalizer and entered the third period trailing 1-0.
The third period started exactly how the Badgers did not want it to start.
After giving the Gophers a power play nine seconds into the period the Badgers were on their heels.
Wisconsin was able to kill that penalty but could not grab the momentum of the game.
Jack Dougherty was called for a penalty and before the Badgers could touch the puck the Gophers brought in an extra attack. A shot from the point bounced off a skate and the glove of Minnesota’s Hudson Fasching before finding the back of the net to put the Gophers up 2-0.
The Badgers were all but cooked until Adam Rockwood came flying down the ice.
Rockwood came down the left flank and slid a pass right across the mouth of the goal to a charging Grant Besse who took it one time into the back of the net to pull the Badgers within one goal with just under nine minutes to go in regulation.
Besse’s goal proved to be the spark the Badgers offense needed.
Just a few minutes later in an eerily similar play, Cameron Hughes came down the left side of the ice and centered a pass, this time for Jedd Soleway who took it one time past Wilcox to tie up the game at two goals a piece.
With the Gophers stunned the remaining six minutes of the game was pure chaos.
Amist the chaos stood Joel Rumpel who came up huge time and time again to maintain the tie for the Badgers.
Rumpel tied a career high with forty-seven saves once again and the Badgers needed every single one of them including one glove save with 30.9 seconds left in regulation
Heading into sudden death overtime the Badgers and Gophers traded chances.
Justin Kloos found himself at point blank range early on in the five minute period but Rumpel shut the door.
Grant Besse generated some offense for the Badgers but Wilcox also stood tall to maintain the 2-2 tie.
He ended the night with 18 of his own saves.
After the five minutes neither team could draw blood and officially the game ended in a tie, but there was a shoot out to dictate one extra point in Big Ten Standings.
Rumpel began the shootout with a save on Kyle Rau and the Badgers took a 1-0 lead after Morgan Zulinick tucked in a backhand five hole on Wilcox.
Seth Ambroz for the Gophers tied it up at one and Wilcox backed up the point by stopping LaBate blocker side.
Joel Rumpel came up huge once again stopping Leon Bristedt and giving the Badgers a chance to win the shoot out.
Grant Besse secured the extra point and a huge moral victory as he went five hole on Wilcox to win the shootout for the Badgers.
Besse, a Minnesota native, had a great game while playing back in his home state. He often looked like the only offensive weapon for the Badgers and it only seemed fitting that he could ice the shoot out victory.
This tie or win whatever the official scorebook wants to call it is an absolutely phenomenal thing for this group of kids.
Eaves said after the game that the sign in the locker room after the first period was “We survived (the first period). Now we have to go play” and the team answered the call.
To come back two goals down in the third period on the road to one of the top teams in the nation and Big Ten will do wonders for this team’s confidence moving forward.
The Badgers finish up their series with the Gophers tomorrow at 5 PM CT as it will be a part of “Hockey Day” in Minnesota.