Wisconsin vs. Minnesota recap: Badgers sweep top-ranked Gophers

A goal and an assist from Nic Kerdiles helped Wisconsin to a sweep over top-ranked Minnesota. - Larry Radloff Photography

Goals from Nic Kerdiles and Grant Besse were enough to to give the Badgers a 2-1 victory on the back of 28 saves from Joel Rumpel.

Ten years to the day of its last sweep over a No. 1-ranked team -- North Dakota, Feb. 6-7, 2004 -- Wisconsin was able to knock off top-ranked Minnesota for the second consecutive night.

In front of a sold-out crowd of 15,359 at the Kohl Center Friday night, the Badgers received goals from Grant Besse and Nic Kerdiles, and Joel Rumpel stopped 28 of 29 shots to send the nation's top team home without a point on the weekend.

Despite winning Thursday, Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves thought his team could have played better. He got that performance in the finale.

"We were a much better team tonight," Eaves said. "Things we didn't do last night, we did (tonight). We moved our legs, we won more races, and when there was a battle, we won more battles.

"We got really fine goaltending, and we got some timely goals."

More: Box Score

Kerdiles showed once again why he's so valuable to this UW club when he set up Wisconsin's first goal with only 20 seconds remaining in the first period on an unbelievable effort play.

After catching a pass from Frankie Simonelli and firing it on the Minnesota net, Kerdiles dove after his own rebound, tipping it over to Grant Besse on the back door in the process. Besse did the rest, beating a sprawled out Adam Wilcox to give the Badgers a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

A series between Minnesota and Wisconsin wouldn't be the same without a bit of controversy. Jake McCabe, who is one of the Badgers' top defensemen, was ejected at the mid-way mark of the second period when his high hit on Kyle Rau drew him a five minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head.

The Gophers would go on to tie the game on the ensuing power play, when Seth Ambroz was able to flip a rebound on the doorstep over Joel Rumpel.

The power-play tally was all Rumpel would give up, as he finished the night with 28 saves on 29 shots. The junior netminder was the star of the weekend for the Badgers, allowing just two goals against a Gopher team that entered the weekend as the No. 4 offense in the nation.

Kerdiles put the Badgers up 2-1 4:33 into the third period on a goal Wilcox would like to have back. Drifting across the blueline, Kerdiles sent a long-range wrister to the net that somehow found its way to twine.

The Badgers would hold on the rest of the way, getting their first sweep over Gophers at home since Nov. 12-13, 1999.

"They've always had good teams, it's a tough task," Eaves said. "Winning this series helps us grow to be the team we want to be at the end of the year. If we're going to be a team that's contending for something, we need to win series like this. So, there was good growth for us this weekend."

Eaves noted the standout play of Kevin Schulze, Chase Drake and Eddie Wittchow down the stretch when McCabe was out as a major positive for Wisconsin.

"With (McCabe) out of the lineup, we had good growth and found a way to win a game."

The win puts the Badgers right back in the thick of the Big Ten conference race. Wisconsin is now just four points behind the Gophers. It also puts the Badgers back in the conversation about the best teams in the country according to Kerdiles.

"When you sweep the No. 1 team in the nation, it puts a statement out there."

For more hockey coverage, follow Andy on Twitter --
You can also reach Andy via e-mail (AndyJohnsonB5Q@gmail.com)

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