MADISON, WI — The Minnesota Golden Gophers came out of retirement Saturday night.
An evening after an 8-3 loss to Wisconsin that led Minnesota coach Don Lucia to jokingly say that his team had retired, the Gophers turned the tables on the host Badgers in a 6-2 victory.
“I thought the guys responded very positively tonight right from our goaltender on up,” Lucia said.
Minnesota goaltender Adam Hauser rebounded from a dismal performance Friday night in which he gave up five goals on 23 shots in two periods before being pulled. Saturday, the senior netminder made 34 saves and held the Badgers scoreless for more than 50 minutes after an early goal.
“I think some people wondered whether I’d come back with Adam tonight, but really I thought it was an easy decision,” Lucia said. “He has played so well all year long. He was sharp tonight.”
After falling behind 1-0 on senior wing Matt Hussey’s power-play goal, Minnesota scored six consecutive goals.
While Hauser rallied, Badger goalie Scott Kabotoff was lit up for six goals before being pulled in the third period Saturday following a brilliant 50-save performance the night before. Down 1-0 in the first period, Minnesota tallied two goals in 46 seconds to take the lead.
Minnesota evened the score at 8:03 when sophomore center Jon Waibel handcuffed Kabotoff with a soft wrist shot from the circle.
Junior center Jeff Taffe then gave the Gophers a 2-1 lead when he pounced on a loose puck just above the crease and slid it beneath Kabotoff’s legs.
“I thought the play that was indicative of the difference for us tonight was our second goal,” Lucia said. “Riddle went in and bounced their guy off the puck and got it to Taffe and he scored. Maybe all the shots that Kabotoff had to take last night made him a little bit tired tonight.”
“I thought Scotty looked a bit tired after the second goal,” Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer agreed.
Minnesota went up 3-1 at 8:14 in the second when freshman wing Garrett Smaagaard scored the first goal of his career. The Badgers were caught behind the play leading to a four on two rush for the Gophers. Sophomore defenseman Paul Martin carried the puck into the zone for Minnesota and fired a wrist shot on net from the high slot. Kabotoff made the initial save, but the rebound caromed in front, where Smaagaard fended off UW defenseman Jon Krall and put the puck in the back of the net.
Minnesota freshman wing Barry Tallackson put the Gophers up 4-1 at 11:22 in the second.
In the midst of a 2:03 span to close out the second period that included 21 minutes of penalties, Minnesota’s Taffe was disqualified for spearing Badger defenseman Mark Jackson.
Early in the third period, though, with Taffe’s penalty still on the board, Gophers sophomore wing Troy Riddle scored when his centering feed intended for sophomore wing Matt Koalska deflected off Kabotoff’s stick and into the net.
“We talked about it coming out of the locker room,” Sauer said. “I said, ‘Listen, if you do it right — you’ve got about a four-minute power play — each unit will get out there for maybe three or four times. We didn’t put pressure on them. We let them come to us with pressure. When you’ve got the extra advantage you are not going to be very successful doing that.”
“When you start a period on the power play I find that guys aren’t as in sync with each other as they might be if they’ve been playing for 15 minutes with each other,” Badger senior center Kent Davyduke said.
Despite scoring two power-play goals, the Badgers struggled with the man advantage, going two for eight on the night, including a 0 for six stretch between power-play goals. Though two of the Badgers power plays were the result of five-minute penalties, the Badgers managed just 15 shots with the man advantage.
“Obviously our penalty killers did a great job,” Lucia said. “It is not very often you have to kill two 5-minute majors and you win a game.” About three minutes after Riddle’s goal, at 6:03 in the third, senior defenseman Jordan Leopold took advantage of a screen in front and placed a wrist shot from the point past Kabotoff for a power-play goal.
“Minnesota did a better job tonight at getting in front of our goaltender than we did at getting in front of theirs,” Sauer said. “They go to the net hard. They get to your goaltender. They get in front of him. It puts a lot of pressure on a goaltender.”
Wisconsin senior wing Matt Hussey opened the scoring at 4:28 in first on the power play. Hussey benefited from a workmanlike effort from forwards Brad Winchester and Kent Davyduke and defenseman Mark Jackson. Their effort helped Hussey receive the puck just above the crease with a virtually empty net to shoot at.
Minnesota senior defenseman Nick Angell was called for a 5-minute major and a game misconduct for checking Matt Murray from behind at 12:51 in the third.
Kent Davyduke tallied his fifth goal of the year on the ensuing power play.