Near the end of a Wisconsin power play late in Saturday’s men’s hockey game against Minnesota, the Badgers managed their first shot on goal of the third period.
Then, during Minnesota’s line change, Wisconsin forward Andrew Joudrey found himself with a clear path to the net. That is, until Minnesota junior Jerrid Reinholz took the ice, made a beeline sprint to Joudrey and with his stick extended, dove forward and knocked the puck away.
The Gophers were able to prevent any other shots on goal for the visiting team that period and earned a 3-2 victory wrapping up a sweep of the Badgers.
“That was the effort that we gave all weekend,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “We beat a good hockey team tonight.”
Saturday’s game was much closer than Friday’s match-up, when the Gophers ran off with a 4-2 win that could have been much more if not for the solid goaltending of Wisconsin’s Bernd Bruckler.
The game was tied 2-2 going into the third period Saturday when the Gophers’ defense began to dominate like it had the night before. Minnesota held Wisconsin to only one shot on goal despite the Badgers having many scoring opportunities in their offensive zone.
The one shot on goal in the period was a season low. The Gophers’ previous low this season came against Michigan Tech (Nov. 21) and Princeton (Dec. 20), allowing those teams just three shots on goal in a period.
The Gophers scored the winning goal on a line rush just over three minutes into the third. Reinholz put the puck in the net on a pass from linemate Garrett Smaagaard.
The line of Reinholz, Smaagaard and Jon Waibel combined for two goals and three assists and had a part in every Minnesota goal of the night.
“This weekend, our line just tried to be the energy line for the team,” Reinholz said. “For the most part, it worked.”
In Friday’s game, Minnesota dominated the specialty teams, converting on three of five power play opportunities.
Yet that dominance didn’t entirely carry over to Saturday, as the Badgers’ first goal came with the nation’s best power play unit on the ice.
Forward Adam Burish jarred the puck from Troy Riddle near center ice and knocked it toward A.J. Degenhardt, who rushed in for the shorthanded goal.
“It was just a matter of weathering the storm in the early part,” defenseman Chris Harrington said. “I think our defense played well – only allowing two goals each night against Wisconsin.”
Friday, the Gophers barely gave the Badgers a chance to get an offense going. Much like in their 2-1 win over North Dakota the week before, Minnesota just kept the puck away from their opponent.
“That’s been a focus for us,” forward Jake Fleming said. “We want to get the puck down low and control it, and when you do that you wear down their defensemen and create chances.”
Thomas Vanek contributed three assists Friday to the balanced Minnesota scoring attack. The Gophers outshot the Badgers 38-18.
“We played a lot more on our end than on their end,” Bruckler said Friday. “The bottom line is that we just got outplayed in the specialty teams.”
After Saturday’s game, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves pointed out that despite having only one shot on goal in the third period, Wisconsin had many more scoring chances. Eaves said he was not displeased with his team’s performance.
“I liked our team this weekend,” Eaves said. “We’re a better team (Saturday) than we were before this weekend.”