Wisconsin series split appropriately closes Gophers’ 2009-10 regular season

Minnesota dominated the No. 3 Badgers Sunday after losing on Friday at the Target Center.

Hockey vs. Wisconsin

Ian Larson

Hockey vs. Wisconsin

by Max Sanders

The final series of the regular season for the Gophers menâÄôs hockey team against No. 3 Wisconsin encapsulated glimpses of the entire season; from the lack of lucky bounces seen all season in FridayâÄôs 3-2 loss to the dominant play of a pre-season contender in SundayâÄôs 6-1 win. Playing at the Target Center Friday night due to a scheduling conflict, Minnesota committed four penalties in the opening period. After David Fischer was sent to the penalty box for contact to the head, Ryan Flynn got the Gophers on the board when he intercepted a Badgers pass, skated to the Wisconsin zone and fired a wrist shot from the right circle for the shorthanded goal. The lead would last less than three minutes, as the Badgers took advantage of the repeated penalties, scoring two unanswered power-play goals. The equalizer came when Jordy Murray led a fast break. Murray found Craig Smith on the two-on-one rush and Smith put the puck past Gopher goalie Alex Kangas. The go-ahead goal came late in the first period during a power play after a penalty was called on MinnesotaâÄôs Zach Budish . Justin Schultz punched the puck in to give the Badgers the lead. With 90 seconds remaining in the first period Jacob Cepis took the puck all alone for the breakaway. Cepis fired high on Wisconsin goalie Scott Gudmandson , and the puck hit the pipe before falling on the goalie. After a review, it was ruled not to have crossed the goal line, and Wisconsin kept its one-goal lead. Replay would be a major factor again in the second period. Cade Fairchild blasted a shot from the blue line that was tipped in by Mike Hoeffel , who was in the crease. After a prolonged review, the referees ruled Hoeffel interfered with Gudmandson in the crease and waved off the goal. âÄúIâÄôve been in front of the net for three years and I usually know when I have a foot in the crease or not,âÄù Hoeffel said. âÄúI didnâÄôt feel like I was in front of [Gudmandson].âÄù The referees went over to head coach Don Lucia to explain their decision, but he was in no mood for conversation. âÄúAt that point I wasnâÄôt in the mood to hear anything from the referees,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúIf itâÄôs close this year, itâÄôs kind of gone against us. ItâÄôs a judgment call, and they made their decision.âÄù Minnesota did manage to tie the game two minutes into the third period, when Kevin WehrsâÄô shot from the point was tipped in by Nick Larson . However, Wisconsin responded when Smith scored his second goal of the game on a perfect pass from Blake Geoffrion . While he was satisfied with his teamâÄôs effort Friday night, Lucia expressed frustration that final tallies have not gone the GophersâÄô way. âÄúItâÄôs seemed like since day one there hasnâÄôt been much reward,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúHopefully, before this season ends this group will get rewarded because we went toe to toe with one of the top teams in the country.âÄù Minnesota would only have to wait just two days to get that reward. During SundayâÄôs game, the final at Mariucci Arena for the five seniors, everything went the Gophers way in a 6-1 rout. âÄúItâÄôs just great to put up six against a rival like that and really finish out strong in the home schedule,âÄù Mike Carman said. Though the game had no effect on the standings âÄîMinnesota had sealed its first round matchup against North Dakota before the drop of the puck âÄî the Gophers said they had plenty to play for Sunday afternoon. âÄúPride,âÄù Carman said. âÄúYou donâÄôt want to go out in your last home game and get your butt kicked.âÄù Carman started the scoring for Minnesota when he knocked in a loose puck in front of the net for the opening goal of the game. Though Wisconsin managed to tie the game midway through the second, the Gophers seniors were not to be denied. Tony Lucia scored the first of his two goals when he deflected a shot by Patrick White past Wisconsin goalie Brett Bennett for the power-play goal. Power-play goals were the theme of the night. Minnesota converted five of eight chances, the most power play goals for the Gophers since a game against Minnesota State-Mankato in 2003. âÄúOnce we were able to score on the power play, we were in good shape the rest of the way,âÄù Don Lucia said. Carman led the way with four points on two goals and two assists. Fellow senior Tony Lucia added an assist to total three points. Tony Lucia knows when Minnesota travels to North Dakota next weekend they will enter the series as the underdog, but itâÄôs a role he says the team is comfortable with. âÄúWeâÄôve played the underdog role before,âÄù Tony Lucia said. âÄúWe feel we match up well with any team if we can just bring our âÄòAâÄô game. WeâÄôre excited at the challenge, and itâÄôs going to be a heck of a series.âÄù