Unbeaten streak ends at 22, Gophers split

Freshman goalie Jeff Frazee stopped 30 shots Saturday for his first shutout this year.

Mark Remme

;The top-ranked Minnesota’s men’s hockey team dropped its first game since Oct. 6 on Friday to Wisconsin, 2-1, due in large part to Badgers’ senior forward Ross Carlson.

The Gophers followed the defeat by beating the Badgers 1-0 on Saturday, earning their third win in four opportunities this season against defending NCAA champion Wisconsin.

Carlson, a Duluth native, netted two power-play goals in Friday’s contest, solidifying the Badgers’ first victory over Minnesota at home in their last four chances.

“(Carlson) skates well, he gives you energy,” Badgers coach Mike Eaves said. “When he winds up to shoot, people are leaning forward because it has a legitimate chance of going into the net.”

Overall, it was a milestone evening at the Kohl Center. Not only did Minnesota’s school-record 22-game unbeaten streak come to an end, but Wisconsin (10-12-2 overall, 7-8-1 WCHA) earned its 1,000th victory in school history.

Both landmark achievements hinged on two important facets of the Badgers’ game: smothering defense and relatively no penalties.

The Gophers (20-2-3, 12-1-3) use the man-advantage as well as anyone in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, posting a second-best 21.6 percent efficiency rate in conference play coming into the game, but Wisconsin held Minnesota to a 0-for-3 showing on the power play.

In the process, the Badgers disrupted the Gophers’ offensive rhythm – something only Maine had been able to do against Minnesota this season – and it showed.

The Gophers looked complacent offensively, only mustering 18 shots and one goal, a far cry from their 4.26 goals per game average coming into the series.

Wisconsin senior goalie Brian Elliott all but shut down Minnesota’s potent offense, making 17 saves on 18 shots.

Elliott, a 2006 Hobey Baker finalist, has struggled through a disappointing first half of the season. But, true to form, he was up to the task against the nation’s No. 1 team.

The loss marked senior goaltender Kellen Briggs’ first setback of the season after starting out 11-0-2.

Briggs shined through most of the game, allowing just two goals on 23 shots, but was unable to out-duel Elliott in the end.

That distinction, however, belonged to sophomore netminder Jeff Frazee on Saturday night.

Frazee, playing in his first game for the Gophers since Dec. 9, earned his first shutout of the season by stopping all 30 Wisconsin shots while battling a hostile crowd.

“I think I thrive on the intensity of close games,” Frazee said. “You feel a little pressure, but I think that motivates me to play better.”

Minnesota looked like a completely different team Saturday. The Gophers recorded nine shots on goal in the first period, half of their game total from the night before.

“I thought we came out and were more aggressive, especially early on,” coach Don Lucia said. “I thought we played more tentative last night – we seemed to play on our toes and seemed more physical tonight.”

Freshman Jim O’Brien, who moved to forward as Lucia shifted the lines around Saturday, scored the decisive goal at 6:59 of the first period.

“(Minnesota) stepped up their play in the first (period),” Wisconsin senior center Andrew Joudrey said. “We weren’t ready to respond and that was the hockey game right there.”

While the Gophers lost their second game of the season over the weekend, they gained experience in one-goal games, which is crucial for a young team hoping to make a postseason run in March.

“It definitely gives us some confidence,” O’Brien said. “For us to bounce back like this after a disappointing defeat – that was a real confidence booster for our team.”