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Wisconsin men's hockey: Rough start dooms Badgers vs. Minnesota

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A 9-2 loss to Minnesota marked Wisconsin's fourth straight.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

While the only goal-buzzer Wisconsin Badger fans were able to enjoy came during the second period intermission when the local pee-wee team took the ice, the Badgers hoped for a better result Saturday night. After suffering a 4-0 loss to the Big Ten’s first place Minnesota Gophers on Friday night, a strong first period would go a long way towards obtaining a weekend split.

However, the Badgers’ (4-12-6, 1-7-2-1) first period effort left them with a familiar feeling as they headed into the dressing for the first intermission on Saturday night. Trailing 4-0 once again after it took just twelve seconds for the Gophers (13-10-0, 8-2-0-0) to get on the board.

Off the opening draw, the Gophers leading scorer junior Hudson Fasching, picked up a neutral zone pass and took advantage of the flat-footed Badgers stepping around sophomore Ryan Wagner and fired a shot through freshman goalie Matt Jurusik. The Buffalo Sabres draft choice now has 18 points in the last 12 games (11 goals, 7 assists).

Shortly after, with 4:05 gone in the period, another Gopher from Friday night’s victory got back on the score sheet. Junior Justin Kloos busted into the zone and used the defenseman as a screen to beat Jurusik for his fifth-straight game with a goal, extending the lead to 2-0 UM.  Coach Mike Eaves pulled Jurusik following the goal and senior Adam Miller replaced him.

Then, just a little over two minutes later, The Gophers got the puck in deep and won a battle along the low right corner boards. The puck squirted onto the stick of freshman Ryan Norman and he backhanded it rather weakly past Miller for the Gopher’s third goal on just their third shot of the game. Coach Mike Eaves used his timeout after the goal to settle down his team.

With 8:40 left in the first junior Aidan Cavaliari was given a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct.

Jurusik was put back in net at the start of the long Gopher power play but Jurusik’s return did little to refocus the team. It took just 26 seconds for the Gophers to beat Jurusik for a third time in the period. Sophomore Leon Bristedt found junior Taylor Cammarata from the corner as Cammarata came into the slot from the left point. The Badger’s penalty kill, although a top-ranked unit, has struggled of late having surrendered four goals in the last three games.

The Badgers would kill off the remaining time in the Cavaliari major and finally a tough period for the home team would come to an end. It was important that the Badgers show some pride in the remaining periods of this rivalry series in front what may have been the Kohl Center’s biggest crowd of the season.

With leading scorer freshman Luke Kunin side-lined for Saturday night’s game players like junior Grant Besse and sophomore Cameron Hughes really needed to have an impact for the Badgers to compete. Hughes had the best chance to score in Friday night’s game on a breakaway opportunity in the third. Fortunately, Hughes got a chance to redeem himself early in the second on Saturday night.

Less than five minutes into the period, the Badgers finally broke through Gopher freshman goalie Eric Schierhorn for the first time this weekend. Starting from a quick transition up ice in the form of a stretch pass. Besse entered the zone on the right side and as he created some space he dropped the puck back for Hughes who fired a shot on net. The shot seemed to deflect off a body in the crease but Hughes would end up being credited with the conversion cutting the lead to 4-1 UM.

The Gophers would regain their four-goal lead on a one-timer from Bristedt for his twelfth goal of the season at 4:25. It was a rather important goal for the Gophers in response to the way in which the Badgers had taken control of the second period. The goal was a prime example of the Gophers ability to get in on the fore-check and support each other.

The Badgers did do well to not allow all of their momentum to be taken from them scoring just twenty seconds later. Besse ripped one past Schierhorn for just his second goal in the last twelve games, cutting the lead to 5-2 UM.

The most notable difference between the first and second periods was the Badgers ability to breakout cleanly and come into the offensive zone with space and numbers. The Badgers outshot the Gophers 13-5 in the second and looked to be in a manageable spot going into the third.

The Badgers started the third on a power play and connecting there would have done wonders for the team’s confidence. However, right after the power play expired, junior Michael Brodzinski came out of the box and picked up the puck in the neutral zone. Brodzinski had sophomore Jake Linhart of his heels and he ripped a shot passed Jurusik in stride to get the Gopher lead to 6-2.  The goal had some similarities to the Fasching goal both players coming down the left side and shooting to the right of Jurusik from about the same part of the circle.

With 15:46 left in the game, The Badgers were given their second five-minute major and game misconduct when senior captain Eddie Wittchow stepped up in open ice to deliver a huge hit on freshman Tommy Novak who would not return to the game.

On the ensuing power play the Gophers would tack on two more goals to make it 8-2. The first coming from Connor Reilly on a deflection and the second from Brodzinski coming after Hughes was boxed making it 5-on-3.

Brodzinkski added on another in the last minute to complete the hat trick and to cap off a dominant 9-2 Gophers win.

The surging Gophers have now outscored opponents 28-6 on their current five-game winning streak. While the badgers have now dropped four in a row as Alaska comes into town next weekend.