Five for ’15: Border Brawl Fallout

by Ben Gotz

So much for fights without consequences.

In the wake of the on-ice brawl that took place between Wisconsin and Minnesota at Mariucci Arena Saturday, the Big Ten announced suspensions for two players involved in the altercation.

Wisconsin defenseman Eddie Wittchow, whose big hit on freshman forward Leon Bristedt instigated the final scuffle, has been suspended two games for contact to the head during the hit. Wittchow was already suspended one game due to a game misconduct penalty he received after making the hit on Bristedt with 30 seconds remaining in the contest, but the Big Ten announced they would suspend him one additional game.

Sophomore forward Vinni Lettieri also received a one game suspension from the Big Ten, for leaving the Minnesota bench when the brawl began. Lettieri will be unable to play in the Gophers game against Minnesota State-Mankato on Friday as part of the North Star Cup.

Here's four other observations and storylines that emerged from the two game series against Wisconsin, that were unable to make it into the game story from over the weekend.

2. First Periods Tell the Story for Wisconsin

In both first periods over the weekend, the Badgers were clearly outplayed as well as outshot. But in the first contest, despite being on the ropes, Wisconsin never allowed a knockout punch and left the period trailing 1-0.

"We survived the first period. That’s what we said. We survived, now we play," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said Friday. "That was the message when we wrote up our first intermission notes. If we don’t survive that period, God knows it could have been 8-0."

Eaves credited senior goaltender Joel Rumpel for making plenty of saves to keep the Badgers in the game. Eaves also mentioned the 5-on-3 penalty kill his team accomplished in the third period as a "turning point."

The penalty kill kept the game at 2-0, a deficit the Badgers were able to erase shortly thereafter.

Saturday, the team found itself down 3-0 at the end of the first period and was never able to recover.

3. Eaves likes Emotion

Asked about the bizarre end of the game sequence for his team, Mike Eaves liked the emotion his team showed.

"It’s fine. It’s good. This is how we get better," Eaves said. "At the end, you know, we play them in a couple weeks. You don’t want to lie down. You want to play hard and smart."

Eaves mentioned that it was good to see the fire from his young team, before making a very interesting analogy about his team.

"We made the analogy with a young team, much like puppies in a box they always want to get out," Eaves said. "When they do something good you want to scratch them behind the ear. Next thing you know, they’re crapping on the carpet. We crapped on the carpet tonight."

4. Line Shake Ups

The Gophers were able to generate plenty of offense over the weekend, using jumbled forward lines developed that week in practice.

Redshirt sophomore Connor Reilly, who was paired with senior Kyle Rau and sophomore Justin Kloos, said he had practiced with Kloos and Rau for just two days in practice before they took the ice against Wisconsin.

Senior Travis Boyd, who was placed in the middle of the team's first line with senior Sam Warning and sophomore Hudson Fasching, said he didn't know if the lines were intended to send a message to the team, but they seemed to work.

"I mean, It think it did," Boyd said. "I don’t know it that was necessarily the message or not, I have no idea, but whenever things change it’s an eye-opener to some people. It might of worked tonight, we had five goals. First time we’ve scored five goals in quite a while."

5. Gophers Winless in Shootouts

After falling to the Badgers in a shootout to Wisconsin on Friday, the Gophers are 0-2 in conference shootouts during the season.

In their two seasons in the Big Ten, the Gophers have yet to win a conference shootout.

"Shootouts haven’t been our thing, that’s for sure," head coach Don Lucia said.