Table for rematch set much differently

Minnesota would like to return to how it played in November against Wisconsin.

Ben Goessling

In many ways, it’s unrealistic to expect Minnesota’s men’s hockey team’s series this weekend with Wisconsin to play out exactly the same way the last meeting between the teams did.

That series, after all, was at Mariucci Arena in November and might have simply been a case of one young team putting it all together on a weekend where the other young team could not.

But if the Gophers are to start a final, desperate run at the WCHA title when they visit the Badgers on Friday and Saturday, they had better hope to play like it’s November again.

The border series is set for 7:07 p.m. puck drops each night in Madison, Wis.

The Gophers rallied from a 2-1 deficit Nov. 5, capping a 3-2 win against the Badgers on Danny Irmen’s penalty shot, and built a three-goal lead on the way to a 4-2 win the next night.

The sweep was an integral part of a 9-2-0 run in November and December that had Minnesota (19-10-0, 12-8-0 WCHA) in prime position for a conference championship run.

And it’s that series that stands as the benchmark for a Gophers team trying to find its way back.

“This is the weekend we need to get everyone back on track,” center Gino Guyer said. “Wisconsin could not have come at a better time for us.”

No. 3 Wisconsin (19-6-1, 14-4-0) hasn’t played a ranked team since November, but Badgers coach Mike Eaves said his team is much different from the one the Gophers swept earlier this season.

“We had a lot of young kids going into Mariucci for the first time, and they were star-struck,” Eaves said in his weekly news conference. “They stood around for a while until the game was pretty much out of reach. But our kids have matured now.”

The direction Minnesota is headed isn’t quite as clear.

The eighth-ranked Gophers rebounded from a sweep at the hands of Michigan Tech and played one of their best games of the year in a 4-3 win over Minnesota-Duluth on Friday.

But the Gophers were out-muscled by the Bulldogs in a 3-2 loss Saturday, leading to questions about whether the Gophers have simply run out of gas.

There’s no question Minnesota will see another physical series this weekend; the issue, rather, is whether that’s a good thing for the Gophers.

Eaves talked Monday about how the Badgers need to “finish (the Gophers defensemen), make it miserable for them every time you’re within a stick length of them.” And Minnesota knows it needs the same kind of response it delivered last Friday against Minnesota-Duluth.

The key might be forward Barry Tallackson, who tallied three assists against Wisconsin in November, including one where he knocked the puck away from a Wisconsin defender in the neutral zone, setting up Guyer’s game-tying goal in the first game.

Tallackson contributed an assist Friday and earned praise from the coaching staff for leading the charge on the forecheck.

And he’s already on notice that the Gophers need a repeat performance this weekend.

“If I get a couple hits early, everybody’s pumped up. That’s a must for us this weekend,” Tallackson said. “I think the seniors – myself included – struggled earlier this year. But we’re back on the same page. (This series) is going to be one humdinger.”

Goligoski iffy

Gophers coach Don Lucia said defenseman Alex Goligoski will make the trip to Madison, but he wasn’t sure if the freshman, who has been nursing a shoulder injury, will play this weekend.