Badgers turn back U at home

Tim Nichols

The bad news for the Gophers men’s hockey team this weekend was that it could not beat Wisconsin at home for the first time since 1993.
The good news is that the games really didn’t mean anything anyway.
Minnesota (12-17-9 overall, 10-12-6 in the WCHA) could only manage one point over the weekend as Wisconsin (15-17-4, 13-12-3) won 6-4 on Friday, then closed out the regular season with a 2-2 tie on Saturday.
“We have one game we didn’t win in our last six,” coach Doug Woog said. “We didn’t lose anything. Both teams had chances to score four or five goals. The pipes helped us a couple of times and the goaltender had them a couple of times.”
Saturday’s game featured sometimes solid, sometimes shaky goaltending by the Gophers’ Adam Hauser and the Badgers’ Graham Melanson.
Wisconsin got the wealth of scoring opportunities throughout the game, but whenever the Badgers thought they had Hauser beat, all they would hear is the clink of rubber and iron. The Badgers hit the pipe an amazing five times during the game.
Badgers coach Jeff Sauer, however, was very pleased with his team’s performance.
“To me it’s a sweep,” Sauer said. “I think we proved something to ourselves.
“We come into Minneapolis — it’s never easy to play here, I don’t care (how Minnesota is playing) — and take three of four points. We end up the year above .500 in the WCHA and that’s a positive.”
Saturday’s game followed a shoot-out on Friday. Minnesota outshot Wisconsin 39 to 32, but went 0-for-3 on the power play.
The Gophers were beleaguered by physical and mental breakdowns, which resulted in two unassisted Badger goals — a familiar scenario for the Gophers, who have struggled with defensive breakdowns all season.
“Even when it was 6-4 with 40 seconds on the clock, North Dakota’s done it a bunch of times,” Minnesota defensemen and two-goal scorer Erik Westrum said. “All 20 guys have to be competing when there’s 40 seconds left. Sometimes it gets discouraging when everyone can’t go out there and do their best.”
Only two tangible things came from this weekend. First, the Gophers set a new record for ties in a season with nine. Second, and more importantly, the matchups for the WCHA tournament are finally set.
Minnesota State travels to North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth heads west to face Colorado College, Denver plays host to Michigan Tech, Wisconsin takes on St. Cloud State in the Kohl Center and the Gophers confront Alaska-Anchorage.
“We need to be patient coming out of our own end,” Woog said. “I wouldn’t say they’re any better or worse than St. Cloud. But you don’t have to deal with the emotional end of playing St. Cloud.”
Minnesota played the Seawolves four times this year, splitting both series.
Alaska-Anchorage is a team that makes its money by jumping on turnovers and miscues in the offensive zone and then turning those mistakes into Seawolf goals.
Minnesota senior Wyatt Smith feels confident about the Gophers’ chances of going to Target Center for the WCHA Final Five, despite the mistakes the Gophers made this weekend.
“We beat them 5-1 there, and 5-1 here,” Smith said. “Only one point separates us, so we’re going to need to bring our `A’ game. It’s going to be a good series.”

SCORING SUMMARIES

Saturday
Wisconsin 1 1 0 0 — 2
Gophers 2 0 0 0 — 2
FIRST PERIOD: Wis — Murray 6 (Hussey 5), 9:24. Minn — Berg 17 (Smith 18, Spehar 19), PPG, 10:05. Minn — Leopold 7 (Miskovich 10), 15:03.
SECOND PERIOD: Wis — Tanabe 9 (Granato 7), 2:00.
THIRD PERIOD: No scoring.
OVERTIME: No scoring.

Friday
Wisconsin 1 1 4 — 6
Gophers 1 2 1 — 4
FIRST PERIOD: Wis — Siren 1 (unassisted), 9:23. Minn — Westrum 9 (Meyer 4), 15:52.
SECOND PERIOD: Minn — Westrum 10 (N. Miller 7), SHG, 9:35. Minn — Smith 22 (Berg 24), 12:02. Wis — Tanabe 8 (Rothering 5, Reinprecht 14), 19:19.
THIRD PERIOD: Wis — Murray 5 (unassisted), 4:41. Minn — Meyer 4 (Mills 12), 13:49. Wis — Rothering 4 (Kuk 21, Reinprecht 15), 14:47. Wis — Stauffacher 5 (Gusak 8), 16:07. Wis — Doman 5 (Kuk 22), ENG, 19:19.