MINNEAPOLIS — Backstopped by Adam Hauser’s 36 saves and propelled on offense by John Pohl’s two scores, the Minnesota Golden Gophers completed an impressive home sweep of the Wisconsin Badgers, 5-2 Saturday night at Mariucci Arena.
The win kept undefeated Minnesota in second place in the WCHA standings, while Wisconsin must regroup from what is now a three-game losing streak.
Minnesota head man Don Lucia was quick to locate his number-one star.
“For us, I think it started with Adam,” he said. “[Early on] the defense was looser, and we gave up some good scoring opportunities.”
Regardless, Lucia was quick to find work for the coaching staff.
“We have to continue to get better defensively,” he said. “I didn’t think we were sharp defensively tonight.”
“Other than the loss, I was pleased with my team tonight,” said Badger coach Jeff Sauer. “Hauser was the difference in the first two periods. I don’t know how he made some of those saves, but he did. …Credit to him for the victory tonight.”
Sauer was not as pleased with the whole game, however.
“It was just one of those weekends. We didn’t get the calls, we didn’t get the bounces. Everything went their way.
“You look at the tape at the end of the second; [Brad] Winchester gets a penalty for taking out the goalie, and he wasn’t within 20 feet of the goal. …It was just one of those nights.”
The level of misbehavior was about what one would expect from a Badger-Gopher game, with a total of 89 minutes in penalties — including three 10-minute misconducts and a high-sticking major — handed out.
Niceties began immediately with 32 minutes in penalties in the first minute of play. Badger captain Jeff Dessner and Aaron Miskovich tangled along the near boards, followed by more of the same from Matt Doman and hard-hitting Gopher blueliner Matt DeMarchi; the latter two drew double minors for roughing and 10-minute misconducts.
The Gophers picked up one more whistle moments later, as Ben Tharp was caught holding up Kent Davyduke in front of the Minnesota net. Despite two point-blank shots for all-world sophomore Dany Heatley, Hauser managed to keep the Badgers off the scoreboard.
An unsuccessful Minnesota power play followed, but a replay of Friday night’s 43 scoreless minutes was not to be as Erik Westrum and Grant Potulny combined for the first goal of the game at 5:46. Entering the UW zone on the right side, Potulny dropped a backhanded pass for Westrum, and the captain’s shot from the circle beat Graham Melanson clean to the far side.
Eight minutes along the Gopher defense was caught cheating in, giving Winchester a one-on-one, but Hauser forced him wide and his stuff attempt hit the left post.
A holding-the-stick call by Brooks gave Minnesota a second power play, and this time the Gophers converted. Good puck movement produced several shots on Melanson before winger Matt Koalska’s wrister from the high slot got through on the netminder’s right at 18:19 for a 2-0 lead.
Heatley, centering the first line and seeing the puck much more than on Friday, had a chance to cut the lead in half on another one-on-one late in the frame, but Hauser made the pad save low to keep Wisconsin scoreless through one.
Shots on goal in the frantically-paced period favored Minnesota 15-14.
Matters got worse for the Badgers just seconds into the middle stanza, as Melanson let in his first soft goal of the weekend. Aaron Miskovich’s slapshot from the top of the left circle nipped Melanson’s glove and bounced over the senior netminder, landing just across the goal line at :19.
The next several minutes settled into a rhythm, with Minnesota frequently content to dump the puck and the Badgers pressing the zone. But a Brooks hold produced another Gopher power play, and a loose puck in front turned into a Jordan Leopold pass to Pohl, whose easy putaway made it 4-0.
The remainder of the second and the early minutes of the third period again found Minnesota content to play defense, frequently dumping the puck for line changes and forechecking the Badgers coming through.
At 7:51, however, Dessner’s point shot wide of the net banged off bodies in the crease to cut the lead to three. Winchester, who was tangled with Gopher blueliner Mark Nenovich at the edge of the crease, was credited with the tally.
Then, on the ensuing faceoff, Wisconsin made it 4-2. Heatley won the draw back to Rob Vega, and Vega tucked his slapshot neatly inside the right post, and just under the crossbar, for his first goal of the year.
“I’ve been around when we’ve had things like that happen,” said Pohl of the Badgers’ rally. “And we’re thinking, ‘We can’t let this happen again.’”
That finally woke the Mariucci crowd, not to mention the Gophers, who came out of their slumber long enough to put a couple of shots on Melanson before settling back down again. The Badgers’ momentum was finally killed, however, on a Jon Krall hooking penalty which put Minnesota on its sixth power play of the evening.
With the Gophers mindful of a potential shorthander, that power play could best be called “deliberate,” until with a minute and a half gone by, Mills’ shot-pass from the left side was tipped out of midair and under the crossbar by Pohl to give the hosts the 5-2 edge.
That goal came on a delayed penalty against Wisconsin — a hold against defenseman Brian Fahey that put the Gophers on the power play again immediately following Pohl’s score, effectively ending the window of opportunity for a Badger comeback.
Fisticuffs finally erupted in the final minute, with Winchester and Nick Angell tangling in the far corner. A five-minute major for high-sticking went to Winchester, and double minors for both players for roughing — and to the officials went the job of cleaning Angell’s blood off the ice after the fracas apparently reopened stitches Angell had from a non-hockey incident.