Wisconsin Rides Zengerle's Four Point Night To Victory
MINNEAPOLIS, Mn. - If Wisconsin's young club was supposed to be intimidated playing in front of 10,000 fans at Mariucci Arena, they sure didn't act like it on Friday night.
The Badgers rode the hot hand of sophomore center Mark Zengerle en route to a 4-1 victory that stunned the nearly sold out arena filled with mostly maroon and gold supporters.
Wisconsin was able to strike first in the opening period when Twin-Cities native Tyler Barnes banged home a rebound after a shot by Ryan Little. The goal gave the Badgers confidence, and also took the crowd out of the game early.
"Playing in this building can be difficult if the crowd gets into it. We did a pretty good job of that tonight. We were able to get the lead and take them out of it," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves noted after the game.
Any game between the Badgers and Gophers is important given the history between the two storied programs, but Friday night's game had added implications. With a win Friday night, Minnesota would clinch a share of the WCHA regular season title.
That wasn't something that the Badgers were willing to help them with.
"We knew that there was a lot at stake with them going for the (MacNaughton) Cup. We're trying to get up there, get ready for playoffs. They have a lot of energy in this building and we kind of weathered it right away," Zengerle said.
Barnes goal came with just two minutes remaining in the first period. Zengerle took the offensive zone faceoff and won the draw to winger Ryan Little, who was promoted to the top line this week in practice by the coaching staff.
Little spun and threw a shot on Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson who got his leg pad on the puck but wasn't able to control the rebound. Barnes battled his way past a Gopher defenseman and was there to bang the rebound past Patterson into the net.
The goal seemed to inspire the Badgers who came out firing on all cylinders in the second period.
Wisconsin's top line would strike again five minutes into the second stanza. After a feed from Zengerle, Little found himself with space in the slot with the puck. The junior from Fond du Lac whistled one over the shoulder of Patterson to give the Badgers a two goal lead.
Minnesota never seemed to recover.
The Badgers went on the power play four minutes later and made the Gophers pay for their transgressions.
Freshman Jake McCabe took a pass from Zengerle on the back side and threw a puck on net that Patterson thought he had held on to. However, the puck fell to the ice and Michael Mersch was there to clean up the loose puck and tuck it between Pattersons pads to give Wisconsin a three goal advantage.
If the fans at Mariucci weren't already stunned, what happened next surely boggled their minds.
Up three goals and once again on the power play, Zengerle danced through the neutral zone seemingly in slow motion. The Rochester, NY native saw an opening between the two Gopher defensemen and swiftly cut between them.
Once in the clear, Zengerle fired a shot past Patterson, leaving the announced crowd of 9,969 with their jaws on the floor.
Just another night at the office for Zengerle, who is now fourth in the country in scoring with 48 points in 33 games.
The win was the fourth in a row for the Badgers, with the last three coming on the road.
With Wisconsin a long shot for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, the Badgers are going to need to stay hot and go on a run in the WCHA tournament.
Zengerle likes the way this club is playing, and says the Badgers are doing what they can to make a little noise.
"We're playing our best hockey right now. At every level you want to play your best hockey going into the playoffs. We're trying to keep banging on the drum."
Wisconsin is back in action Saturday night at Mariucci for game two against Minnesota. Game time is 7:00 PM.
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