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Wisconsin vs. Minnesota Friday recap: Badgers drop Big Ten opener, 4-1

Top-ranked Minnesota held serve at home, defeating Wisconsin, 4-1, in the first ever Big Ten hockey conference game.

Minnesota defenseman Mikey Reilly scored the Gophers first goal of the game Friday
Minnesota defenseman Mikey Reilly scored the Gophers first goal of the game Friday
Larry Radloff Photography

Wisconsin (4-4-1, 0-1-0 Big Ten) scored first, but Minnesota (10-2-1, 1-0-0 Big Ten) was able to ride two goals from Seth Ambroz to a 4-1 win Friday night in the first ever Big Ten hockey conference game.

"It's something we talked about -- getting the first win ever," Gophers head coach Don Lucia said after Friday's game. "So I'm really happy for us to come out and get the first win in the first game."

The Badgers got thing started in the first period on a goal from Eagan, Minn., native Joseph LaBate. Mark Zengerle centered a pass to the junior winger, and LaBate was able to tip the puck to himself and eventually past Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox for the early lead.

The Gophers would bounce back just three minutes later on a power play goal from defenseman Mikey Reilly. After winning an offensive zone faceoff on the man advantage, Reilly sent a snap-shot towards the Wisconsin cage that slipped past UW netminder Landon Peterson.

"It was a great win by (Kyle) Rau to get it back to me. I just had to get it to the net," Reilly said after the game. "(Hudson) Fasching had a great screen and I didn't have to do much."

Power plays would be a heavy topic of conversation Friday, as the two teams combined for 30 minutes in the sin-bin. Wisconsin was even assessed a bench minor in the first period for something that was said to an official from the bench after a questionable penalty call against the Badgers.

"The fact we have to talk about officials says it all," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. "And that will be my final comment on that."

Minnesota would take its first lead of the game 13:14 into the opening stanza when Seth Ambroz was able to bank a shot from behind the goal line off Peterson's leg into the back of the Wisconsin net.

"It kind of seemed like the goalie lost his footing and I wanted to see what happens," Ambroz said. "Coaches talk about throwing pucks at the net from bad angles all the time. I just tried it and was fortunate enough to get it in the back of the net.

"Sometimes it just takes one of those cheesy goals to get the boys going. I was happy enough to get the boys going."

After a scoreless second period, the Gophers would go on to extend their lead at the mid-way point of the third when Connor Reilly's shot on the rush beat Peterson for the 3-1 lead.

Ambroz would add an empty net goal to seal the first ever Big Ten victory for the Gophers.

Despite the loss, Eaves felt his team played hard coming off its third bye week of the early season.

"We as a staff have no problem with (the team's) effort," Eaves said. "We just have to get the rust off offensively and get into that flow again.

"Especially like the power play - we haven't been on it in two weeks in game situations, so it takes a while."

The Badgers were 0-5 on the power play Friday, but did seem to get more pressure on the man advantage as the game wore on.

Neither team seemed to find much of a rhythm Friday thanks to all the special teams play, but Wisconsin must get more pressure on the Minnesota net Saturday if they want a chance to knock off the top-ranked Gophers. The Badgers finished with 25 shots on the night, but put together just 12 through the first two periods.

Saturday's contest is an early 5:00 p.m. CT start. The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

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