Wisconsin and Minnesota squared off for a border battle in this classic college hockey rivalry Friday at The Kohl Center.
The Badgers came out of the gate with energy. Their offense looked dangerous early for the first time all year.
Both teams took awhile to settle into the game, the quick pace of the game seemed to be favoring the Badgers early on.
Despite the lack of goals early on, there was not a lack of action as both teams seemed to remember their last meeting which ended in a miniature brawl.
Early cheap shots and some shoving began happening between individuals and came close to boiling over after Corban McGuire came flying in and gave Minnesota goalie, Adam Wilcox a face full of ice.
McGuire and Minnesota’s Christian Isackson both were issued two minute roughing penalties for the interchange.
Four on four hockey ensued and the Badgers earned a faceoff to the left of Wilcox.
Grant Besse won the faceoff back to Kevin Schulze who fired a wrist shot in front of net.
Six foot four inch Joseph LaBate was camped out in front of Wilcox and got a tip on the puck that slid through Wilcox’s five hole and had just enough steam on it to trickle into the net giving the Badgers a 1-0 lead eight minutes and four seconds into the game.
The Badgers held strong to the one goal lead throughout the first period fighting off a penalty on Eddie Wittchow for holding in the process.
The Badgers looked all but guaranteed to go into the first intermission until Matt Ustaski was called for slashing at 18:20.
The Gophers strong power play would not be denied a second time.
With exactly one minute remaining Brady Skjei ripped a shot that hit the boards behind Joel Rumpel and onto the stick of Seth Ambroz. Ambroz threw the puck off of Rumpel’s backside and into the net from below the goaline.
With the game tied at one a piece with under one minute remaining it was all but certain that the Badgers and Gophers would head into the second period deadlocked at one.
Matt Ustaski had other plans.
The six foot six inch forward chipped a puck past the Minnesota defense and chased it down for a one on one chance with Wilcox.
Ustaski went blocker side and gave the Badgers the lead with 7.1 seconds left in the first period.
The Badgers would take the lead and the momentum into the second period.
The momentum would transfer over initially for the Badgers who stuck first in the second period.
Grant Besse tallied his eighth goal of the season to put the Badgers up 3-2 after a wrist shot from the slot trickled behind Adam Wilcox.
At this point, I was feeling pretty confident in my prediction the Badgers would take this one, in one minute and forty seconds, I would no longer be too sure.
The Gophers pulled to within a goal as Vinni Lettieri came flying down the slot and finished a rebound at the 11:00 mark.
One minute and one second later Jake Bischoff found himself alone in front of Rumpel to tie the game at three goals a piece.
The Gophers were not done.
Twenty-six seconds later Seth Ambroz gave the gophers the lead on his second goal of the night.
The Gophers added even further to that lead thirteen seconds later when Leon Bristedt netted another one past a confused Wisconsin defense.
Four goals in one minute and forty seconds flipped this game on its head.
“It was like somebody turned off the lights for a minute and forty seconds and our brains didn’t know what they were doing” said Head Coach Mike Eaves after the game.
The Badgers took a timeout to re group.
“I didn’t say a word”, said Mike Eaves.
“I kneeled down in the back and let the guys take over. We just needed a minute to take a breath and figure it out”
Mike Eaves decided to stick with Rumpel after the timeout and the Badgers looked to cut into the Gopher lead.
The Badgers had a great chance to do just that late in the third period as they went on the power play. After Seth Ambroz was called for slashing.
After two minutes with the man advantage the Badgers had not managed a goal but right as the power play ended Brad Navin found a charging Jack Dougherty who ripped a shot from the left hash marks past Wilcox and into the net.
Dougherty, who is starts as a freshman capped off the goal with an impression of Cam Newton’s “Superman” celebration.
I love the confidence from the youngster out of Cottage Grove, Minnesota. He will be a household name for the Badgers in a couple years, you can just tell.
His goal gave Badgers life only down one goal headed into the third and final period.
The Badgers looked dangerous and Rumpel seemed to have shaken off his earlier performance and was making the saves.
The Badgers put themselves at a disadvantage after Eddie Wittchow was called for slashing putting the Gophers on a power play.
The deadly Minnesota power play unit set up with ease and passed all around the Wisconsin defense.
The Badgers could not fight off the penalty fully however as a rebound went directly to the stick of Taylor Camaratta who put it in an open net to give Minnesota a 6-4 lead.
Forty-six seconds later Hudson Fasching would rip a shot past Rumpel to all but solidify the win as the Gophers took a three goal lead at the 8:53 mark.
To the Badgers credit they did not stop fighting. Jedd Soleway had a nice tip in power play goal off a shot from the point from Tim Davidson to cut the lead to two at the 10:08 mark but it was a little too late.
The Badgers would go on the power play with a little over two minutes left in the game and came close to getting another goal but could not seem to convert.
Joel Rumpel was pulled for an extra attacker with a minute and thirteen seconds left but Wilcox stayed strong. He posted twenty-seven saves in the win
Rumpel posted 28 as the Badgers fell to the Gophers with a final score of 7-5.
Coach Eaves said there were a lot of positives to take away from the game.
“There was fifty-eight minutes and twenty seconds of silver linings” he pointed more specifically to the power play unit and the ability for the offense to put in five goals and to generate shots thirty five shots.
I admire Eaves’ attitude, and he is not wrong, Wisconsin looked good out on the ice. Better than they have all season in fact but once again fans watched the Badgers fall apart and squander a lead.
The Badgers get a chance for redemption Saturday night as the finish up the Border Battle series at 7 PM at The Kohl Center.