MADISON, Wis. – Not a fan of official scorekeepers, Wisconsin freshman Jedd Soleway has had three announced goals taken away from him after postgame reviews, leaving him still searching for his first collegiate goal.
No problem, as he’s now resorted to finding other ways to get on the score sheet.
Soleway played a big part in both goals for No. 12 Wisconsin in its 2-1 win over No. 1 Minnesota in a Big Ten conference game Thursday night, handing the Gophers their first loss since Nov. 24 and ending the nation’s longest unbeaten streak at 14.
Soleway made a lot work well for the Badgers (15-8-2, 6-4-1-0 Big Ten), who moved back into second place in the conference and trimmed their deficit over the Gophers (19-3-5, 8-1-2-0) to seven points despite getting just 19 shots on goal and three in the third period.
Soleway was responsible for setting up one of those three shots, fending off a defender on a wraparound and executing a one-handed pass out to junior Jake McCabe for the winner from the right circle at 13:47 of the final period.
“Jedd is a big boy and he’s best when he’s moving his feet down low,” said McCabe. “I think that’s what it really comes down to. He’s fending off the defender and moving his feet the whole way through. It started with Jedd. … That’s a big-time play for a freshman.”
And while he didn’t get an assist on the first goal, Soleway parking that “big body” in front of Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox (17 saves) was enough for senior captain Frankie Simonelli’s long-range shot to creep over the goal line to give UW the lead.
In fitting irony, replays showed that Soleway just might have grazed the puck with his stick, although the goal officially stayed with Simonelli.
“Jedd has done a lot of things that go unnoticed with his presence in front of the net,” said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, who improved to 9-8-3 against top-ranked teams. “With his size and the way he can shoot, we’re trying to find ways he can be a contributor.”
Wisconsin’s penalty kill went 4-for-4 and has killed off its last 24 penalties; UW’s beleaguered power play — 0-for-7 its last three games and 14.7 percent (13-for-88) on the season — went 1-for-1; and UW blocked 15 shots and got 31 saves from junior Joel Rumpel, including a breakaway stop on junior center Kyle Rau in the third period.
“They blocked a lot of shots, they always do,” said Rumpel. “It’s kind of what we live and die by on our team.”
Wisconsin’s first win over a top-ranked team since Nov. 11, 2011, (also against the Gophers in Madison) extended Minnesota’s continued offensive frustration. The Gophers went 0-for-4 on the power play and scored two goals or fewer for the third straight game.
When scoring at least three goals, Minnesota is 18-0-2. When it doesn’t reach that mark, the record drops to 1-3-3.
“I thought we played well,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “I have no issue with our effort, maybe execution a little bit and make a play around the net. I thought we had good traffic, but we didn’t corral a few pucks that were there for rebounds.”
Eaves used the phrase “it is what it is” to describe Wisconsin’s 24 hours before its Thursday series opener. Due to a women’s basketball game being played at the Kohl Center the night before, Wisconsin was forced to skate in its practice arena on a smaller sheet of ice.
Eaves said Thursday is also a heavy class day for his students compared to a Friday, making him wonder out loud how UW would handle a short preparation.
Although the Badgers were outskated for much of the first two periods, Simonelli’s power-play goal was critical. It was just the second lead Wisconsin has had in the first period in the last five games, and while Taylor Cammarata tied the score with 2:40 remaining in the period, the Badgers had some lift.
“Any time you get the first goal it’s big,” said Simonelli. “The power play has been struggling as of late, so that helps it out as well. It came to the end of the period 1-1 but we still knew we were in the game.”
Wisconsin improved to 14-3-1 at home this season, including 4-0-1 against ranked teams, but left knowing it got one of its best wins of the season while playing far from perfect.
“We have played better here and lost,” said Eaves. “It’s funny how the game goes sometimes. Tonight we didn’t play very well and found a way to win. There’s an old cliché in hockey and in sports: Good teams find a way to win on nights they don’t play well.”