When Minnesota comes to town, there is a different energy in the Kohl Center. Friday night was no exception.
Wisconsin opened the scoring 12:45 into the first period when Matthew Freytag was able to capitalize on a Gopher turnover. Freytag forced a turnover at the Badger blueline and Matt Utaski was able to pick up the puck and carry it into the offensive zone. The puck bounced back to Freytag who was able to roof the puck over goalie Mat Robson’s glove and into the corner of the net.
Kyle Hayton stopped Leon Bristedt on a breakaway with five minutes remaining in the first to keep the Badger lead at one heading into intermission. Hayton stood strong in the first, making 16 saves in the opening frame to keep the Gophers off the scoresheet.
Just 1:56 into the second period, Minnesota’s Steve Johnson scored from the blue line to even the game at one. A seemingly innocent shot from Johnson was able to find its way through a screen and over the Hayton’s shoulder.
The Badgers came on strong in the second with 23 shots in the period compared to just 11 for Minnesota. But it was the Gophers with the lone goal as the teams headed into the third period tied at one.
Just 39 seconds into the third period the Gophers would take the lead. Brent Gates’ drive to the net drew Hayton out of position. Tyler Sheehy followed the play and found the puck waiting in an empty crease to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead.
Less than two minutes after Minnesota took the lead, the Badgers would tie the game at two. Jason Ford took the puck from a Gopher defenseman, took a hit and delivered a no-look backhand pass across the slot to Matt Ustaski’s waiting stick. Ustaski would make no mistake, picking a great time to score his first goal of the season.
With just under five minutes remaining, Minnesota’s Tommy Novak fed Tyler Sheehy in the right circle and he was able to beat a screened Kyle Hayton to take a 3-2 lead with his second goal of the game.
Darian Romanko scored the empty netter to seal the deal for the Gophers.
Both teams went 0-4 on the power-play.
Kyle Hayon made 35 saves in a losing effort. Mat Robson made 38 saves to earn the win for Minnesota.
These teams with face off once again Saturday night at 7 PM in front of a sold-out crowd.