Gophers sweep Badgers to stay undefeated

David La

When Wisconsin’s Brad Winchester put a gash in the head of Minnesota’s Nick Angell during a late-game tussle Saturday night, a border-battle became a blood feud.
Officials began shoveling snow on the bloodied ice, epitomizing a weekend in which anything in red was swallowed-up whole at Mariucci Arena.
After losing all five meetings with the Badgers last season, the determined Gophers responded with their first home weekend sweep of Wisconsin since February of 1998.
“We’ve been talking all week about payback,” Minnesota’s Johnny Pohl said. “This program has a tradition, and we’ve been told since we came here, ‘Don’t lose to Wisconsin,’ and that’s all we did last year. We owed them big-time.”
With three power-play goals in the two games, Pohl administered much of the Gophers payback.
But the star of the weekend was Minnesota goaltender Adam Hauser, a picky puck inspector who sent back scores of defects.
“Hauser was the difference in the first two periods,” Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said Saturday. “I don’t know how he made some of those saves but he did it, and you have to give him credit for the win.”
Hauser stymied the Badgers all weekend. The junior posted his fifth career shutout on Friday, then stopped 36 of 38 shots on Saturday.
Hauser’s rock-solid play derived from a similarly unwavering mentality.
“We lost five in a row to Wisconsin last year, and I think that was all that needed to be said,” Hauser said. “I don’t know if it was the way the stars lined-up or what. I really don’t care, I came out to play.”
The series opened with two scoreless periods Friday. The Gophers played the aggressor, generating 34 shots on net while Wisconsin managed 18 attempts.
Minnesota’s persistent yet patient approach paid off in spades when Aaron Miskovich shot a deflected puck past Badgers goaltender Graham Melanson early in the third period.
In the four minutes, thirty seconds following Miskovich’s goal, the Gophers Erik Wendell and Erik Westrum each added a score, sapping any momentum left in Wisconsin’s reserve.
“We were not in-synch all night long,” Sauer said. “It was just one of those nights where you kept looking at the clock saying, ‘Let’s get this over with, go to bed and put it behind us.'”
On Saturday, the Badgers played noticeably more intense, but Minnesota quelled their hopes with a pair of first period goals.
The Gophers Grant Potulny carried the puck into Wisconsin’s zone, drawing both defenders toward him before dishing a pretty pass behind his back to Westrum, who flipped a shot past Melanson on the high stick side.
“Scoring the first goal was very important tonight,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “It gave us continued confidence and allowed us to play with a lead.”
The second tally, a Matt Koalska shot through Melanson’s legs, was the first of three power-play goals for the Gophers on Saturday.
Miskovich tacked a third goal on less than one minute into period two, putting Minnesota ahead, and on cruise control.
Premature chants of “over-rated” resonated throughout the arena, taunts silenced when the Badgers — ranked second in the nation before last weekend — struck for two third-period goals in 11 seconds.
“Nervous,” Pohl said when asked about his reaction to the goals. “Because I’ve been around where we’ve had leads like this, then blown it.”
Pohl struck back six minutes later with a power-play goal, securing the sweep.
The Winchester-Angell tiff kept the Gophers evening from ending on the highest note possible, but Lucia seemed pleased with what he saw.
“That’s the change in Nick Angell,” Lucia said. “Last year, Nick wouldn’t have gotten involved, but sometimes you’ve got to stand up for yourself out there.”
Minnesota did the same, and exacted sweet revenge for last year’s debacle in the process.

David La Vaque covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]