MINNEAPOLIS — “Resilient; we talked about that after the game,” said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves. “This group was tonight. Because of that fact, we were able to squeeze out a point.”
Every time the Minnesota Golden Gophers seemed to be taking over the game, the Badgers fought back.
“I thought at a couple key points of the game where we scored, they had a couple good shifts after that,” said Gophers coach Don Lucia. “They scored the very next shift after we went up 1-0 and they had a good 3-4 minute surge after we went up 2-1 and then they tied it.”
“We just seem to keep running into that 50-mile-an-hour headwind and we had that again tonight; we geared down and got it done,” said Eaves.
Minnesota outshot the Badgers 43-24 for the game and owned a distinct territorial advantage. They generated numerous quality scoring chances, but their failure to score on the two five-minute majors made the tie feel like a loss.
“We have to find a way to score there; 10 minutes on the power play without a goal is unacceptable, and that is the reason we tied,” said Zach Budish.
The Badgers offense was led by Michael Mersch, who tallied both of Wisconsin goals.
“He is playing his best hockey of his college career,” said Eaves. “The big man is using that body. He was real strong on his stick. He protected the puck well. He got his fanny to the net. I really think he is skating better.”
Erick Haula put Minnesota back up by one 48 seconds into the second period on a power-play goal. Haula picked up the puck in the left corner and skated around the perimeter of the circle looking for a shooting lane. He fired a wrist shot through heavy traffic, beating Peterson low.
“Budish had a nice screen; Zach, that is his best game he has had in a while”, said Lucia.
Mersch netted his second of the game on at 5:06 on a no-look backhand pass by Jake McCabe. The Badgers had held the zone and Derek Lee one-timed a a shot that came hard off Wilcox’s pad. McCabe chased it down and threw it back toward the net. The puck went right to Mersch, who one-timed the shot on the far weak side.
At 6:38 of the second, Joseph LaBate was called for checking from behind. The Gophers applied intense pressure, but failed to score.
Budish opened the scoring at 3:49 on a one-timer from 25 feet out. Nate Condon worked the puck behind the goal line in the corner and backhanded a pass to Budish while being chased by a defenseman.
Just 26 seconds later, Mersch scored a goal on a defensive zone miscue by the Gophers. Derek Lee chased down a loose puck on the left side wall and found Mersch alone out front.
The same two teams faceoff Saturday night at 8 p.m. at Mariucci Arena.