Minnesota wins MacNaughton Cup outright after defeating Wisconsin

Nate Schmidt scored the game-winning goal in Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Wisconsin.

Once the final seconds ticked away Saturday and the Gophers bench emptied toward Kent Patterson in the crease, it all became a reality.

Minnesota was the sole owner of the MacNaughton Cup for the first time in five years.

The Gophers rode a fierce third-period comeback led by Erik Haula and Nate Schmidt to beat rival Wisconsin 2-1 at Mariucci Arena.

Schmidt gave Minnesota the lead with more than 12 minutes left in the game. The Badgers tried to fight back, but to no avail, and the Gophers hoisted the hardware in front of an announced crowd of 10,241.

Nick Bjugstad returned to the lineup Saturday after he sat out Friday night with an undisclosed injury.

Bjugstad made his presence felt and tallied three shots in the first period, but he could not find the net.

Minnesota, as a whole, came out with more offensive firepower Saturday and outshot Wisconsin 15-7 in the first period.

Despite the shot discrepancy, neither team scored in the frame and the game remained knotted at 0-0.

The Badgers were hot on the power play all weekend, and they took advantage of one ill-advised penalty in the second period.

Tyler Barnes slammed home a bouncing puck in front of the net to give Wisconsin a 1-0 lead. It was Barnes’ second goal of the series and the Badgers’ third power-play goal on the weekend.

Mark Zengerle had an assist on the scoring play to stretch his weekend point total to five.

Early in the third period, Bjugstad crashed the net and mayhem followed. Two Wisconsin players jumped Bjugstad behind the net and multiple fights broke out around the scrum.

When order was restored, the Badgers ended up on the power play with a chance to net a huge insurance goal.

Not if Erik Haula had anything to do with it.

Haula found the puck on his stick and raced into the zone on a two-on-one. Haula deked left and finished with his backhand to even the score at 1-1 and get the crowd back into the game.

Less than three minutes later, Schmidt gave the Gophers their first lead of the series with a power-play goal.

Schmidt made a phenomenal effort to keep the puck in the offensive zone and faked a shot before beating Joel Rumpel with a laser from just inside the blue line.

Wisconsin pulled Rumpel with a little more than a minute left, but it could not get the equalizer.