Gophers call showing vs. Badgers ‘kind of embarrassing’

Technically, the Gophers fought Wisconsin to a 2-all tie on Friday night. But, after losing the night's shootout, it sure felt like an overall loss for struggling Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s safe to say the Gophers hockey team hasn’t been this disappointed about a tie in quite a while.

Despite outplaying rival Wisconsin for much of the game — and outshooting the Badgers by 17 in the first period — Minnesota left Friday’s game at Mariucci Arena with a 2-all tie and just one point in the Big Ten standings. For a Gophers squad desperate for victories, letting a two-goal lead slip away in the third period led to plenty of frustration after the game.

"Quite frankly, it’s kind of embarrassing," said Gophers senior Travis Boyd. "Those are points that we need to have."

Wisconsin won the shootout 2-1 to gain the extra point in the Big Ten standings, although it’ll technically go down as a tie. Minnesota native Grant Besse — who scored the Badgers’ first goal of the game — also netted the shootout winner when he beat Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox with a backhand shot.

Given the way the Gophers played in the first period it seemed impossible for Minnesota to lose, especially to a Wisconsin team that came into the weekend with a 2-11-2 record. The Gophers fired 20 shots at Badgers goalie Joel Rumpel in the first period alone, while Wilcox faced just three shots in that opening frame. In fact, the Badgers didn’t get their first shot on goal until 5:10 remaining in the first period.

By that time, Minnesota already had a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal by Sam Warning. Boyd found Warning in the slot and fed his linemate with an assist that set up a 1-0 lead for the Gophers. Minnesota felt it should have been up more given its 20 shots on goal in that period, but the Gophers failed to capitalize on a few more scoring chances.

"That’s the disappointing thing to me. We had plenty of chances to be up more than we were," said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. "Give Rumpel credit. He was outstanding, played extremely well. But that’s my disappointment."

After a first period in which Minnesota dominated in just about every facet, both teams skated through a scoreless second period in which the Gophers outshot the Badgers again, although by just a 9-7 margin.

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With the fans at Mariucci Arena seemingly on edge as Minnesota clung to a 1-0 lead into the third period, Gophers sophomore Hudson Fasching allowed the home crowd to breathe — at least momentarily — when he deflected a Jake Bischoff shot from the point to beat Rumpel. That put Minnesota up 2-0 with 13:09 to play as the Gophers appeared poised to take the first game of the weekend series.

But for the second time in as many weekends, Minnesota allowed a third-period lead to slip away. It was Besse putting the Badgers on the board with 8:51 remaining on a pass from Adam Rockwood. Less than two minutes later, Jedd Soleway tied it when he found an empty side of the net to shoot at. That made it a 2-all game with 6:54 remaining.

Just like that, that dominating first period Minnesota had was a thing of the past — and the Gophers’ inability to cash in on more chances came back to bite them.

"Besides the third period, I thought we played a good game," Boyd said. "Right now it stings. It’s not a good loss."

Minnesota managed five shots in overtime, and forward Justin Kloos had a good look at a potential game-winner. But Rumpel stepped up big for the Badgers once again and denied the Gophers sophomore. A scoreless overtime session resulted in a shootout, an area Minnesota has struggled in since the inaugural Big Ten season last year.

Seth Ambroz scored in the shootout when he lifted a backhander past Rumpel to tie it 1. After Wisconsin’s Joseph LaBate and Minnesota’s Leon Bristedt were stopped in their shootout attempts, Besse played the role of hero for Wisconsin when his backhander beat Wilcox to give the Badgers the shootout win.

Minnesota still earned one point in the standings for the shootout loss, but the Gophers knew they missed an opportunity to get three big points in the Big Ten.

"I thought physically we were good. We had good energy. We moved the puck," Lucia said. "You look at attempted shots, we were (84 to 33). All those things should signal a win, but in hockey that’s not always going to be the case."

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