Gophers earn sweep of Badgers

Ben Goessling

If the biggest knock on Minnesota’s men’s hockey team entering the season was that it lacked a proven goal-scorer, then a large part of the impetus for solving that problem fell on two players – one a slumping junior who hadn’t scored in 14 games, and the other a highly touted sophomore still looking for a chance to prove himself.

And in a way, it was fitting that Gino Guyer and Danny Irmen played major parts in laying waste to that theory, each scoring two goals in the fourth-ranked Gophers’ sweep of No. 5 Wisconsin over the weekend at Mariucci Arena.

Guyer tied Friday night’s game 2-2 just 11 seconds into the third period, and Irmen put Minnesota (7-2-0, 5-1-0 WCHA) ahead for good five minutes later, stuffing a backhand past Wisconsin (5-3-0, 3-3-0) goaltender Bernd Bruckler for the first penalty shot goal in Mariucci Arena history.

Friday night’s raucous third period seemed to energize the Gophers on Saturday, as they dropped three first-period goals – one each by Guyer and Irmen – on the Badgers en route to a 4-2 win.

“It’s nice to put four (points) in the bank against Wisconsin,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “It’s a credit to our seniors that they’ve never lost a game against Wisconsin in this building.”

Saturday night’s game – a rowdy affair watched by a Mariucci Arena-record 10,587 fans – saw the teams combine for 40 penalty minutes, 18 of which stemmed from shoving matches between the two heated rivals.

The Gophers took advantage early, taking a 1-0 lead at 3:25 when Irmen put back Tyler Hirsch’s shot for a power play goal.

The Gophers outshot the Badgers 14-4 in the first period, taking a 3-1 lead into the locker room and building it to 4-1 in the second period on its second Hirsch-Irmen hookup of the night.

After failing to convert on a power play, the Gophers scored when Hirsch made a slick pass to Irmen, who one-timed the puck past Bruckler’s stick.

“I turned around to backcheck, and the next thing I knew, the puck was there,” Irmen said. “It was a great pass by Tyler.”

Friday night, it seemed the Gophers would come up short against Bruckler. The All-American goalie stopped 42 shots, including 23 in a frustrating second period that saw Minnesota fall behind 2-1.

But Guyer tied the game before lines at the concession stands thinned out. And it isn’t too much of a stretch to say his goal changed the entire weekend.

The center took possession of a loose puck in the neutral zone after Barry Tallackson forced a turnover and wheeled through Wisconsin’s defense, burying a shot to Bruckler’s glove side.

It was Guyer’s first tally since March 5, and it seemed to rejuvenate both team and player.

“I feel like a weight’s been lifted off me,” Guyer said Friday. “I said to the guys when the period started, ‘Let’s get a goal right now.’

“I think we completely dominated Wisconsin in the second period. Being turned away time after time was frustrating. I think guys were gripping their sticks a little tighter. But we got one by, and we just rolled from there.”