Gophers open up Big Ten play splitting series with Badgers

The Gophers won the first game 3-2, before dropping the second 1-3.

Forward Brent Gates celebrates a scored goal at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday, Nov. 2. The Gophers fell to Minnesota State with a final score of 5-1.

Jack Rodgers

Forward Brent Gates celebrates a scored goal at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday, Nov. 2. The Gophers fell to Minnesota State with a final score of 5-1.

Jack Warrick

The Gophers split their first Big Ten series of the season on Saturday.

They won the first game 3-2 before dropping the Saturday game 3-1 in a Friday-Saturday matchup against Wisconsin. Both games were played at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

“The only criticism is we missed the net a lot,” head coach Bob Motzko told reporters after Saturday’s game. “We had better opportunities we could’ve made by honing it in on our shooting.”

Wisconsin beat Minnesota in the second game of the rivalry series after Minnesota’s Brannon McManus scored first with assists from Sammy Walker and Tyler Nanne midway through the first period.

Wisconsin answered with a goal of its own in the first period, followed by two in the third period that made the final score 3-1 on Saturday.

“I have no issue with how we came and played, and our intensity tonight,” Motzko told reporters. 

Goaltender Eric Schierhorn was in the net after other netminder Mat Robson played on Friday. Schierhorn saved 29 of 31 shots. Badgers goalie Daniel Lebedeff had 32 saves to tally a win for his team.

Back on track with a win Friday

The Gophers snapped a three-game losing streak on Friday in the first game of the series when Ryan Norman, a senior forward, scored midway through the second period, making the game 3-2. That score would remain final as the Gophers survived for another period and a half to take their first Big Ten game of the season.

“It’s good that we showed a little heart tonight and we’ve had a couple games now where we’ve let up the first goal and kind of shut down, so it was good to see our group … come back firing after we were down,” Gophers’ forward Tyler Sheehy told reporters after the win.

Wisconsin scored twice before Minnesota’s offense could muster any points. But an early second-period surge of three goals in under 1:30 of clock time allowed Minnesota to get on top and hold on.

Gophers’ freshman defenseman Ben Brinkman opened scoring for Minnesota with his first college goal at 9:20 played in the second period. Then forward Rem Pitlick followed that up with a power play goal 21 seconds later to tie the score 2-2. Norman scored less than a minute after the equalizer, and it was enough for the Gophers’ first win in four games. Norman’s goal was his second game winner of his career — his last was when he was a freshman, also against the Badgers.

Mat Robson got the start over Eric Schierhorn, tallying 30 saves, and 15 in the third period.

“We needed a hard-fought victory, and we got one tonight,” Motzko told reporters after the first game.

The Gophers will play St. Lawrence University (1-8) in a two-game home series at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Nov. 16 and 17.