Minnesota loses to Wisconsin but clinches share of WCHA title

The Gophers fell 4-1, but a loss by UMD ensured them a share of the MacNaughton Cup.

Gophers forward Nick Bjugstad handles a puck during a game against Bemidji State on Feb. 17 at Mariucci Arena.

Image by Satchell Mische-Richter, Daily File Photo

Gophers forward Nick Bjugstad handles a puck during a game against Bemidji State on Feb. 17 at Mariucci Arena.

by Dane Mizutani

Minnesota was destroyed 4-0 at the hands of rival Wisconsin on Friday night, but still clinched a share of the MacNaughton Cup.

Minutes after the game ended in at Mariucci Arena, St. Cloud State defeated Minnesota-Duluth 2-1 to ensure that the Gophers would at least tie for the WCHA’s regular-season title.

Minnesota will also be the No. 1 seed in the WCHA tournament because it holds a tiebreaker with UMD.

The Badgers outworked and outplayed the Gophers en route to a 4-0 victory Friday.

Neither goaltender was really tested in the opening frame, but the Badgers struck first when Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson gift-wrapped a rebound for Tyler Barnes.

The Minnesota native pounded the puck in the net and Wisconsin took the lead late in the first period.

Minnesota played without Nick Bjugstad and looked offensively inept for various stretches of the night. It managed to create some chances, but few of them looked menacing.

Wisconsin’s offense exploded in the second period. Ryan Little made it 2-0 early in the second period after Ben Marshall lethargically attempted to clear the zone.

Michael Mersch added a goal at 9:40 into the second period to stretch the lead to three goals. Patterson appeared to freeze the puck, but it dropped to the ice for an easy tap-in.

Nico Sacchetti was called for a questionable hooking penalty less than six minutes later, and the Badgers capitalized.

Mark Zengerle weaved in and out of the Gophers penalty kill unit and beat Patterson to put the game out of reach at 4-0.

Zengerle had a hand in every point Friday and has 48 points on the season.

Patterson played by far his worst game of the season Friday, and backup goalie Michael Shibrowski led the Gophers on the ice for the start of the third period.

It was the first time all season Patterson was not in the crease for Minnesota. 

Shibrowski did not allow a goal in relief of Patterson, but the Badgers had clearly had slowed the game down in the third. 

An announced crowd of 9,969 packed Mariucci Arena on hand at the start of the game, but most fans left before it finished.

Sacchetti scored an insignificant goal late in the third period to finalize the score at 4-1.

Minnesota can win the MacNaughton Cup outright by defeating the Badgers on Saturday.