MINNEAPOLIS — In a game marred by a frightening-looking injury to Gopher defenseman Joey Martin, Minnesota used a four-goal second-period outburst to drop archrival Wisconsin Friday night at Mariucci Arena by the score of 6-3.
Martin’s injury came midway through the third period. After absorbing what appeared to be a clean hit along the boards from Wisconsin winger Erik Jensen, Martin’s helmet came off as he fell and hit the back of his head on the ice.
The sophomore from Osseo, Minn., suffered a seizure seconds later, then lay motionless and bleeding as both teams’ trainers rushed out. After a stoppage of 10 minutes, Martin began to move again, then was loaded onto a stretcher and taken off — but not before provoking a standing ovation by waving both hands at the crowd as he left.
Martin was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was reported to be conscious and lucid. He was expected to be kept overnight for observation and testing, but indications were that the injury was much less severe than it appeared initially: perhaps only a concussion and a cut on the back of his head.
“He’s conscious now, but he doesn’t remember much,” said Gopher coach Don Lucia of Martin’s postgame condition. “That’s why they wear helmets now, and I can’t imagine why they ever didn’t. The ice doesn’t give.”
“I did not see it,” said Badger coach Jeff Sauer. “I was worried it was an illegal hit or something.”
Play continued for as much as 10 or 15 seconds after Martin fell before refereee Bill Mason whistled for time, drawing the ire of Lucia, who was calm but direct in assessing the slow stoppage.
“You can see them skate right by as he was down,” said Lucia. “You’ve got three [officials] out there, you’ve got to pay attention.
“I wasn’t upset with Wisconsin at all … I told our guys, ‘Hey, it was a clean hit, so no need for any retaliation.’”
“It calms you down more than anything,” Sauer agreed, refuting the worry that matters could have gotten ugly. “The hockey game seems less important after that.”
Back on the ice, Gopher netminder Adam Hauser (26 saves) had a notable evening, breaking both the WCHA records for games and minutes played by a goaltender, and the Minnesota record for wins.
The first two records were previously held by UW stalwart Graham Melanson, while the other belonged to former Hobey Baker winner Robb Stauber, now the Gophers’ volunteer assistant coach for goaltending.
“It’s nice, don’t get me wrong,” said the low-key Hauser of the recordbreaking effort. “But there’s something bigger than me, than any record I could set, going on here.”
“It’s a real credit to him,” said Lucia. “He should feel real good about that.”
Jeff Taffe ended a three-game goalless streak with two tallies and an assist, while John Pohl and Nick Anthony also enjoyed three-point nights for the Gophers. Badger captain Andy Wheeler figured in all three UW goals, scoring two and adding an assist.
Tied 1-1 early in the middle period, the hosts scored four goals in just over five minutes to take charge for good. Minnesota (23-7-4, 15-7-3 WCHA) has now won five of its last six, while Wisconsin (12-17-4, 10-12-3 WCHA) saw its winless streak extended to six games after allowing 46 shots on goal to the powerful Gopher offense.
The early going wasn’t so unfavorable for UW. After a slow start, the Badgers got the game’s first power play, but the best scoring chance then came off the stick of Pohl on a shorthanded rush.
Wisconsin was then forced to kill two penalties, but a third, for obstruction-interference on Matt Murray, cost the Badgers. Cutting through the defense in the high slot, Pohl backhanded the puck across the circles to Taffe, whose one-timer landed high in the net at 17:24.
Shots on goal after one favored Minnesota 21-11, but Wisconsin wasted no time undoing Minnesota’s dominance early in the second.
One minute in, Badger captain Andy Wheeler took the puck through center ice and split the defense for a point-blank wrister. Wheeler’s shot went under Hauser to tie the score at one.
Minnesota retook the lead on Pohl’s 20th goal. Jordan Leopold’s centering pass ricocheted through traffic in front, putting the puck on Pohl’s stick as he was uncovered on the back side. UW netminder Scott Kabotoff (40 saves) could only wave at his high wrister, which made it 2-1 at 7:14.
That signaled the start of an eye-popping string of goals, including three on three consecutive shots in a span of 2:37.
First, the Gophers fired up the shorthanded offense again. With Matt Koalska in the box, sophomore Dan Welch smartly played the puck to himself on a clear, led a two-on-two up the right side and let go an excuse-me pass that Taffe — streaking up the back side — tipped into the net for his 27th goal of the season.
Minnesota struck again 20 seconds later, again with Welch’s assistance. On a five-on-five possession, Taffe got low in the right circle and hit Welch with a cross-crease pass. Welch, left alone to Kabotoff’s right, took a second to gather the puck, then fired into the half-open net.
Unexpected sniper Matt DeMarchi provided the last goal in the Gopher onslaught, a slapshot hammered from the right point after Nick Anthony’s pass found the defenseman with an open lane.
Rob Vega quieted the rollicking Mariucci crowd momentarily, getting one back for UW seconds after DeMarchi’s goal. Kent Davyduke culminated a Badger rush with a slapshot from the right side, and when Hauser gave up a big rebound, Vega skimmed it into the goal to make it 5-2 at 13:01.
Vega’s goal rounded out the second-period fireworks, a streak of five goals in under six minutes for the two teams. Wisconsin had a shot to get another one back near the end of the frame, but on a two-on-one shorthanded rush, blueliner Dan Boeser held the puck too long and had his shot blocked in front.
Anthony made the Badgers pay for that missed opportunity at :27 of the third, getting a centering pass from Troy Riddle and redirecting it off the post, then taking two pokes at it from a prone position to slide it across the goal line.
After several harmless minutes, Martin’s injury took much of the steam out of the rest of the contest. The Badgers did get one back at 14:58 on Wheeler’s second of the night, but Minnesota coasted to the 6-3 victory.
The Gophers remain in third place in the WCHA, while Wisconsin held onto fifth, and the last home-ice slot, thanks to losses by Minnesota State-Mankato and North Dakota.
The same two teams hit the ice for a 7:05 p.m. CT faceoff Saturday.