MINNEAPOLIS — Fifth-ranked Minnesota completed a weekend sweep of No. 7 Wisconsin with a 3-2 win at Mariucci Arena Saturday night. The win elevated the Gophers into a three-way tie for third place in the WCHA with St. Cloud State and the Badgers.
Wisconsin and Minnesota matched each other blow for blow for two periods in a physical game.
“You have to win the third periods in this league to win the game.” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia.
Minnesota struck early in the third as seldom-used junior forward Jerrid Reinholz made his case for more playing time by notching the game winner and breaking up a Wisconsin breakaway with a diving poke-check.
“He had a great weekend. He played with so much energy last night. With Grant [Potulny] out, it’s his opportunity to break into the lineup.” said Lucia of Reinholz.
It was Reinholz’s first goal of the season at 3:11 of the third period that gave the Gophers their first lead of the game. The score came on one of the rare times all weekend that Wisconsin left the passing lane between the circles open.
“It’s overwhelming. To score my first goal of the year like this, [and] to come out with the ‘W,’” said Reinholz
After the Reinholz goal, Minnesota clamped down on defense.
With a minute left in the game the Badgers were trailing by a goal, yet had mustered only one shot on net in the third period. They pulled goalie Bernd Bruckler after an icing call against Minnesota at 19:02, but Wisconsin was unable to land a shot on net.
Despite the loss, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves was proud of his team’s play.
“If we play like that we are going to beat a lot of teams. The players know inside they played well. It was a great step for this young team.”
Wisconsin opened the game with a flurry, including numerous shots in the slot that just could not get by Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs as the Badgers sustained pressure on Minnesota’s defense for the first time all weekend.
“Wisconsin played great. They kept beating us to loose pucks early on.” said Lucia of the first period.
The Badgers’ pressure was finally broken up by a minor penalty on Wisconsin defenseman Jeff Likens at 8:45 of the first. The Badgers were forced to kill another penalty, which has been the Achilles heal during their recent struggles.
This time Wisconsin managed to hold off Minnesota’s high-octane power play. In fact, A.J. Degenhardt scored a shorthanded goal at 9:37. The play was set up when Adam Burish pickpocketed Minnesota’s Troy Riddle.
The Gophers managed only two perimeter shots on the power play as the Badgers maintained the momentum.
At 16:31, Minnesota defenseman Chris Harrington one-timed a shot from the top of the circle to tie the game at 1 on an even-strength goal.
The second period was highlighted by two transitional goals.
The Badgers scored first on a 2-on-1 at 5:20. Rene Bourque brought the puck up the right side and broke for the net. Briggs stopped the first shot, but left a rebound for trailer John Eichelberger. The teams were skating 4-on-4 at the time.
The Gophers tied the game at 8:13 on a give-and-go between seniors Jon Waibel and Matt Koalska. The play originated with an outlet pass from Briggs.
Waibel drove up the boards and fed Koalska at the Badger blueline drawing the defender. Koalska passed it back to Waibel, who drove around the defender and directed a backhand into the far corner.
“You want to be in the top three going into the playoffs.” said Reinholz on the significance of the win.
Next weekend Wisconsin will host North Dakota, while Minnesota hosts Bemidji State in nonconference play.