Gophers close gap with conference leaders

With Sunday’s outdoor game looming, Minnesota defeated Wisconsin 3-2 to pick up two crucial WCHA points.

Drew Claussen

MADISON, Wis. — With the excitement of an outdoor game Sunday looming, it was easy to forget that crucial WCHA points were up for grabs inside the Kohl Center on Friday night.

The Gophers picked up two points with a 3-2 victory over the Wisconsin and closed the gap with the two teams in front of them in the conference standings, St. Cloud State and North Dakota, whom are both idle this weekend.

Minnesota and Wisconsin will play again Sunday at Soldier Field as part the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic.

On Friday, Seth Ambroz scored Minnesota’s third power-play goal of the night with 7:12 left. Ambroz’s shot from near the crease crossed the goal line by a couple of inches and gave the Gophers a two-goal lead.

“It’s been a while,” Ambroz said. “I got a nice, lucky bounce and the play was set up by everyone else.”

Wisconsin pulled its goalie and attacked for the final few minutes of the game, resulting in one goal to cut the final deficit in half.

Nick Bjugstad scored the only goal of the second period on the Gophers’ second power play. The goal broke a 1-1 tie.

Bjugstad created the power play when a turnover he forced in the offensive zone led to a flurry of chances for the Gophers and a double-minor penalty by Wisconsin.

“That’s the main reason we scored — we got a lot of momentum,” Ambroz said. “[We] drew two penalties in one play — that was phenomenal on [our] part.”

Despite peppering Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel with 20 shots in the first period, the two teams entered the intermission tied 1-1.

“It was a tough first period for us,” junior forward Nate Condon said. “We got a lot of shots, but I don’t know if they were good, quality chances.”

Both goals in the first were scored with relative ease.

Nick Kerdiles got the party started by tapping a one-time pass in from Adam Wilcox’s back door. Kerdiles wasn’t marked by a Gophers defenseman on the play.

Minnesota tied it up on its first power play of the game when a Ben Marshall shot found its way onto Sam Warning’s stick. The sophomore forward easily slid it past Rumpel, who was out of position after Marshall’s shot.

Despite cooling off from their 60-shot pace after the first period, the Gophers outshot Wisconsin 43-30.

While Minnesota found great success with the extra man, the Badgers had to wait until the third period for their first power-play opportunity.

“We do a pretty good job of not taking unnecessary penalties,” Gophers head coach Don Lucia said. “It wasn’t going to be a penalty-filled game. The difference was we were able to convert on our chances.”