Joel Rumpel stopped 25 shots but Minnesota earned a 3-1 victory Saturday night. - Photo Credit: Larry Radloff/INCHWriters.com
Despite scoring first on Saturday night, Wisconsin wasn't able to earn any points in the series finale.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Considering Wisconsin's start to the season, the position it was in after the second period on Saturday night wasn't the worst thing in the world.
A multitude of issues had led the Badgers to a 1-4-1 start coming into the series, but after a Friday night tie, Wisconsin headed into the third period of Saturday's contest in decent shape tied at one with third-ranked Minnesota.
Four third-period penalties later, and we're singing a different tune.
Fourth-line center Tom Serratore was the hero for the Gophers after using a Badger screen to wrist a shot past Wisconsin netminder Joel Rumpel. Serratore's goal gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead it never relinquished.
An empty net goal by Kyle Rau in the last minute of the game sealed the 3-1 victory for the Gophers.
UW senior Ryan Little was notably frustrated after the contest.
"We took ourselves completely out of it," Little said. "Took a couple dumb penalties, didn't do the things we wanted to do."
"A lot of bad habits and details out there, and it showed. It was embarrassing."
Little got the Badgers on the board first in the opening period when Wisconsin was short handed.
Sophomore Brendan Woods picked up a loose puck and led a two-on-one up the ice. Woods waited out the defenseman and made a perfect pass to Little, who was able to tuck it past Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox.
"(Woods) did all the work, he put the thing on my stick," Little said. "All I had to do was have two hands and a pulse and the thing went in. It was a nice play by Brendan."
Wisconsin went into the first intermission with the one-goal lead, but Minnesota was able to bounce back in the second after a Badger turnover in the neutral zone.
Former first-round NHL draft pick Nick Bjugstad picked up the puck with speed and flew down the right sidewall with space. When the Wisconsin defenseman didn't step up on Bjugstad in the zone, the rangy center ripped a slap shot past UW goaltender Joel Rumpel to tie the game at one.
The teams went into the break tied at one, and it looked like Wisconsin might be able to escape Minneapolis with a couple of points. Things changed in the third when Wisconsin was whistled for four penalties, completely killing any momentum they had.
Serratore's goal happened at the 7:14 mark of the third thanks to a nice play by Erik Haula. The junior center was able to avoid a hip check from a Wisconsin defenseman at center ice and feed the puck to Serratore. The Colorado Springs native did the rest, ripping a long range wrister past Rumpel.
Rumpel didn't have the best game of his Badger career, but he was solid the majority of the night, stopping 25 of 27 Minnesota shots, including multiple in the third period when the Badgers were in the box.
"I thought he was good when he needed to be," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said after the game.
Wisconsin could never get much going on offense Saturday night, and that included on the power play despite receiving four opportunities in the finale. The impact of the loss of junior Mark Zengerle was apparent on the man advantage the entire weekend.
"Our power-play was anemic," Eaves said. "We had four power-plays and maybe had one chance."
One of the strangest seasons of my limited memory took another crazy turn after the contest was over. Eddie Wittchow --who was a healthy scratch Saturday -- was injured loading the team bus.
According to Eaves, Wittchow was cut, and later passed out at the sight of his own blood when he was on his way to see the trainers in the locker room. Wittchow received stitches and will be fine, but that's the type of season it's been for the Badgers so far.
Senior captain John Ramage said the Badgers need to go back to work on Monday.
"We have a lot of work in front of us," Ramage said. "Right now we're in a little slump here, we've got to go back to work."
"I know it's getting pretty repetitive, but it's time to start making some changes and getting a few wins."
Wisconsin will be back in action next weekend at the Kohl Center to host Minnesota State.
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