Gophers win back-and-forth battle with Badgers

The latest edition of one of the “border battle” was a barn burner.

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The Gophers survived a late Badgers push, as the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team escaped with a 5-4 win over the University of Wisconsin on Friday night in Minneapolis.

“Entertaining game. A lot of turnovers probably on both sides led to some scoring opportunities, so that’s an area that we have to clean up tomorrow,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said.

Wisconsin built a 2-1 lead in the first period after freshman Sean Dhooghe scored on a five-on-three power play at 7:14. Gophers senior Mike Szmatula scored the equalizer less than two minutes later, before junior Jarod Zirbel put the Badgers in front again at 17:21.

Szmatula’s goal was his 100th point in a Gophers sweater.

Junior Tommy Novak and freshman Scott Reedy had three points each for the Gophers, who scored four consecutive goals and built a 5-2 lead in the second period, chasing Badgers goalie Kyle Hayton.

Hayton, a senior who transferred to Wisconsin after starring at St. Lawrence, was charged with the loss after making just 14 saves on 19 shots before being relieved by sophomore Jack Berry.

Gophers goalie Eric Schierhorn made 35 saves on the other end, as the Badgers piled up a whopping 20 shots on goal in the second period.

The Badgers finally broke through again at 17:09 of the second thanks to freshman Tarek Baker, before sophomore Trent Frederic cut the Gophers’ lead to one with a power-play goal at 12:16 of the third.

Minnesota was out-shot 39-28 overall, scoring once on five power play opportunities while allowing two power play goal on six attempts.

The two teams meet again at 7 p.m. Saturday for the series finale.