MINNEAPOLIS — All-American defenseman Jordan Leopold scored his 18th goal of the season at 2:01 of overtime, giving Minnesota a 4-3 win and a weekend sweep of the annual Border Battle at Mariucci Arena.
On the winning play, winger Barry Tallackson drew the attention of two Badger defenders outside the blue line, allowing Leopold to gather a loose puck, cut across the circles and fire a shot that beat UW goaltender Bernd Bruckler, who appeared to be screened on the play.
“[Leopold] read it, Barry got tangled up with the ref and two of their guys, and the puck squirted free,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “He jumped in it, used their defenseman as a screen, and got off the shot.”
“I’m in the right spot at the right time, I guess,” said Leopold. “Maybe their defensemen made a little mistake with two of them taking Barry.”
“He’s a big kid for them, and he made a big play,” said a downcast Jeff Sauer, making his last appearance at Mariucci as Wisconsin’s head coach.
For the Gophers, John Pohl scored the first two goals after entering the game tied with New Hampshire’s Darren Haydar for the national lead in scoring with 62 points. Goaltender Adam Hauser stopped 31 shots, including several key saves late.
At the other end, Wisconsin’s Matt Murray notched two assists as the Badgers dominated considerable stretches of play.
“We played too well to lose,” said Sauer, whose squad saw its winless streak reach seven games. “We did everything we could to slow them down.”
“I’d say we got lucky,” agreed Pohl. “Our goalie won us the game, and Jordan won us the game.”
For Minnesota, another piece of good news came in the person of Joey Martin, who had suffered a frightening head injury in Friday night’s game but was released from Hennepin County Medical Center at 2:30 a.m. Saturday with only a concussion and laceration on the back of his head.
Martin’s injury, which came after a clean hit knocked off his helmet and he hit his head on the ice, sent him into a seizure and stopped play for over 10 minutes.
“It was a great feeling [to see Martin Saturday],” said Jeff Taffe. “You never want to see anything like that, and he’s a great guy. It was great to see him laughing and joking around.”
The Badgers opened up with a more offensive look, outshooting Minnesota in the first 10 minutes and getting on the board first.
Off Rene Bourque’s behind-the-back drop pass, Murray took a slapshot from the left point that Adam Hauser gloved but left in front, allowing Erik Jensen to swoop in and clean up the rebound at 11:47 for his first goal.
The Badgers’ dominance came to an abrupt end, though, partly due to three consecutive penalties.
A silly penalty on Matt Hussey — for knocking down Keith Ballard 75 feet behind the play — gave Minnesota its second power play, and Pohl converted. Parked in front of the net, Grant Potulny redirected Taffe’s shot from the right circle on net. Bruckler (28 saves) kicked the puck aside, but Pohl was there to tap it back in at 17:23.
The Gophers kept the momentum going early in the second, eventually running up a 21-2 margin in shots on goal over a span of 20-plus minutes. Another spate of penalties followed, but surprisingly few good scoring opportunities developed until Murray took the Badgers’ third slashing penalty.
On that power play, Minnesota’s fifth, Pohl fed Potulny in front, and the sophomore winger took two whacks before Pohl moved in and stuffed the puck underneath Bruckler for his 22nd goal.
Taffe promptly added the third Gopher goal at 15:36. Defenseman Judd Stevens started the tic-tac-toe play with a pass to Dan Welch below the right faceoff dot, and Welch hit Taffe alone in front for a wrister back across Bruckler’s body, the junior’s 28th goal of the season, to make it 3-1.
Wisconsin’s opportunity to get back in it arrived in the form of a five-on-three when Pohl (holding) and Jon Waibel (interference) went off 23 seconds apart.
Hauser made a pair of outstanding stops, including one on Hussey at the back door, but when all three Gopher defenders got bunched up at the blue line on a clear, it left Alex Leavitt alone on the wing. Leavitt took a pass from Kent Davyduke just inside the blue line, skated in untouched and went top-shelf to bring the Badgers within one at 17:40.
Alternate captain Matt Doman evened things up 50 seconds later, taking a centering pass from Murray and one-timing it past Hauser from between the circles. The goal, Doman’s seventh, came as time expired on the second power play.
The teams went to the locker rooms tied at three; after 40 minutes of dramatic momentum shifts, shots on goal favored the hosts 24-22.
Referee Bill Mason, already not a favorite of the Mariucci crowd for his slow whistle on Martin’s injury Friday, further incensed the fans with a borderline whistle on Pohl. That interference call came immediately after two non-calls on apparent takedowns by Wisconsin skaters, giving the gentlemanly Pohl a rare two-penalty game.
The Gophers killed that penalty, but the Badgers still racked up the first seven shots of the third period. Pohl then drew a borderline penalty in return, getting Andy Wozniewski sent off for what might have been a hold behind the Badger net.
Leavitt nearly untied the game a minute after the expiration of that penalty, but Hauser got a piece of his 15-foot wrister to send it over the crossbar.
UW defenseman Jon Krall was next to the box after flattening Potulny along the boards. Minnesota took its timeout 22 seconds later, but still could not convert on the power play, and the remaining five minutes ticked away without incident to force overtime.
“We didn’t say anything [before overtime],” said Lucia. “Just stay with your systems and let them make a mistake.” That came two minutes in, leading to Leopold’s winner.
The win, couple with Colorado College’s second straight loss to Alaska-Anchorage, assures the Gophers of at least a third-place finish in the league, with the possibility of second depending on next weekend’s home-and-home series with St. Cloud.
Wisconsin next faces Minnesota-Duluth with hopes of home ice still alive. The Badgers, however, will need help after falling to sixth in the WCHA standings. Also, the loss sent the Badgers to their first losing record in the WCHA since 1995-96, and just their third ever under Sauer’s tutelage.