The Wisconsin Badgers (11-8-1) took on the No. 7 Minnesota Golden Gophers (14-6-2) in a weekend series, splitting a crucial two game set with a 4-3 overtime loss on Friday, followed by a commanding 5-3 win on Saturday.
Game 1 – Minnesota 4, Wisconsin 3 – OT
The electricity in the Kohl Center was palpable. Even prior to puck drop, the season attendance record was broken by approximately 11,500 fans who braved the fog to watch the Badgers take on the Gophers in the latest installment of the Border Battle. The fans would leave somewhat disappointed as the Gophers would eventually come away with a 4-3 OT win, but there was definitely a feeling of hope that pervaded the Kohl Center atmosphere following the game.
Although there was much excitement prior to the beginning of the game, Minnesota took the wind out of the home crowd’s sails by notching two of their four goals overall in the first period (Bristedt 4:30, Szmatula 11:42).
Wisconsin forward Cameron Hughes had two golden opportunities to score in the first when he broke away from the pack on a shorthanded breakway, and later found himself wide open in front of the Gopher goaltender, the Badgers would have to wait for “Captain America” Luke Kunin to take the goose egg off of the scoreboard. He would waste no time in the second period, firing one home from the top of the slot past Eric Schierhorn less than a minute into the first. Matt Ustaki would then go on to tie the game up 16 minutes later off of an assist from Matthew Freytag. The score would not be tied for long, however, as Tyler Sheehy of the Golden Gophers would put Minnesota ahead with just 40 seconds left in the period.
The Badgers would seemingly not be denied however, as Trent Frederik tipped one past Schierhorn in a flukey play that evened the score with 10 minutes left in the final frame. Neither team could break through in the third, which led to an overtime period which was ended fairly quickly by Minnesota’s Justin Kloos (1:43).
Coach Granato would go on to summarize the game succinctly by stating that “it wasn’t our best game of the year, but again that’s a heck of a team over there and we’ll be better tomorrow.”
Game 2 – Wisconsin 5, Minnesota 3
He was right.
The second game of the series saw even larger attendance with a sell-out crowd of 15,359. The Badgers came out ferociously, with Will Johnson setting the tone early with a goal in the first period. However, Minnesota scored twice unanswered to put them ahead 2-1 after the first.
The second period was arguably one of the most promising all season as Cameron Hughes, Tim Davidson, and Corbin McGuire put on a clinic by each scoring to put the Badgers up 4-2 against the #7-ranked team in the nation.
The young squad then came out during the third period and showed true grit and determination by essentially shutting down the talented Gophers. Trent Frederik set the tone just one minute into the frame with another goal, and the Badgers never looked back.
In the 5-3 victory sophomore goaltender Matt Jurusik, fresh off of an injury, put on a show, tallying 32 saves in just his second game back.
The Badgers are on the road next weekend as they take on Ohio State. The first game of the series is at 6 p.m. CT on Thursday in Columbus, with the second game being played on Saturday at Madison Square Garden as the team participates in “Super Saturday-College Hoops and Hockey.”