MADISON -- There are games when you're the better team and lose, and games when you find a way to win despite being out-played. Wisconsin fell into the latter category Thursday night, knocking off No. 1 Minnesota despite being out-shot and out-chanced by a wide margin.
In front of a sparse crowd of 8,908 at the Kohl Center, the Badgers were able to snap the Gophers' 14-game unbeaten streak, and picked up a big resume booster in the process despite not being on their "A" game.
"I didn't think we particularly played very well," UW head coach Mike Eaves said after the game. "Our guys hung in there when we weren't playing very well, and found a way to get a victory."
The Badgers (15-8-2, 6-4-1-0 Big Ten) opened the scoring in the first period on a rare power play goal. After Joseph LaBate and Kevin Schulze rotated the puck around to the point, senior captain Frankie Simonelli lit the lamp with a blast that tipped off Minnesota netminder Adam Wilcox and just snuck over the goal line.
The Gophers (19-3-5, 8-1-2-0 Big Ten) would even things up late in the opening period on freshman Taylor Cammarata's sixth goal of the season. Kyle Rau set things up when he forced a turnover on Wisconsin defenseman Jake McCabe, and sent a centering pass to Cammarata who was able to flick it past Joel Rumpel.
Minnesota continued to put its foot on the gas as the game went along, but couldn't solve Rumpel the rest of the night. The highlight save came early in the third period as Rumpel denied Rau on a breakaway.
Wisconsin would pick up the game winner 13:47 into the third period on a play started by Jedd Soleway. The freshman winger carried the puck in the zone wide all the way around the net, and while fighting off a Gophers' defender, was able to flick the puck with one hand to McCabe on the back door.
McCabe was able to do the rest, patiently waiting out Wilcox before roofing it over his glove from a sharp angle.
After the game McCabe talked about redeeming himself for the earlier turnover.
"I sit next to (Rumpel) in the locker room, and I said I owed him one," McCabe said. "It was definitely my fault completely. (Rau) beat me to the puck, turnover, bang, goal. Unacceptable. When I'm out there -- me and (Simonelli) especially -- we want to be plus players every night. We're relied upon to be consistent defenders, and to let Joel down like that is never a good thing as much as he bails us out every game.
"To get him one back, it felt good."
Eaves said they've come to expect McCabe to step up in big moments like he did on Thursday.
"Jake's one of the guys on the team that we as a coaching staff look to, and his teammates look to, when big moments come up, to make big plays," Eaves said. "He did that for us tonight, and for that, we're thankful."
Knowing how good Minnesota can be, Eaves said his club has to be much better in the finale Friday night.
"We got somewhat better as the game went on but we need to really pick that up tomorrow because there's no way we can play back-to-back games like that and have a chance to win."
The Badgers will be going for the sweep on Friday at the Kohl Center. Game time is 8:00 p.m., and it can be seen live on the Big Ten Network.
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