Gophers split away rival series against Badgers

Minnesota broke its longest victory streak since 2006-07 at seven games.

Gophers forward Justin Kloos controls the puck while playing against Michigan at Mariucci Arena on Feb. 26, 2016.

Joe Sulik

Gophers forward Justin Kloos controls the puck while playing against Michigan at Mariucci Arena on Feb. 26, 2016.

by Drew Cove

In true border battle fashion, the Gophers and Badgers kept things interesting in their first meetings of the season over the weekend.

No. 7 Minnesota (14-6-2, 6-2-0 Big Ten) defeated Wisconsin (11-8-1, 4-2-0 Big Ten) 4-3 in overtime Friday but lost 5-3 in regulation Saturday.

“It’s always exciting to win in overtime,” said Gophers head coach Don Lucia. “It’s why they call it sudden death. It was a good win for us.”

Senior captain Justin Kloos scored just 1:43 into the overtime period to win the first round of the series for the Gophers.

“I had a bunch of chances in on the goalie all game, and wasn’t able to find the back of the net, and that last one I think it hit every pipe and found its way in,” he said.

Kloos cemented himself as Minnesota’s second leading scorer after Friday with 26 points in 21 games this season.

The Gophers played well on the boards and got to the front of the Badgers’ net to generate goals.

One player rewarded for strong play in front of the net and hard work taking pucks away from the opposition was forward Mike Szmatula.

“He’s a bulldog,” Lucia said. “That’s what makes him effective. He’s physically strong, he’s got good quickness … and he’s good around the net. That’s where he scores his goals.”

Szmatula had a goal, an assist and five shots Friday to lead as one of the Gophers’ top skaters.

Minnesota outshot Wisconsin 40-32 Friday, with goaltender Eric Schierhorn garnering 29 saves with the win.

A series sweep was spoiled for the Gophers Saturday.

“I thought we came out with really good energy,” Lucia said. “[Then] they score a couple of goals, then it’s completely different.”

Minnesota came out strong in the first period, but wasn’t able to continue in the second and third to pull out the win.

The Gophers had a 2-1 lead going into the second period, but the lead started to fall apart mid-way through the second. Minnesota was outshot in the second period 17-7 and allowed three unanswered goals.

“I thought we came out [and] had a really great first,” Szmatula said. “Much like how we let them back into the game [Friday], we started just shooting ourselves in the foot. They took it to us, [it’s] pretty disappointing.”

The Gophers were beat to rebounds off of Schierhorn, and allowed the Badgers to gain control of the pucks in tight areas and eventually score.

Minnesota drew six penalties to generate power play opportunities, but offset scoring chances by committing seven penalties of its own.

While being strong on the initial shot, the defense couldn’t clear all of the rebounds, and Schierhorn was left to see the ensuing shots. He allowed five goals on the 37 shots he faced.

“You get what you earn,” Lucia said. “We didn’t earn a win [Saturday].”