Boyd scores twice, helps Gophers finish ‘better’ in 5-2 win over Badgers
MINNEAPOLIS — After his team blew a two-goal lead and lost in a shootout Friday, Gophers senior Travis Boyd called his team’s performance "kind of embarrassing."
Boyd singlehandedly did his part to make sure Minnesota didn’t have another disappointing performance against rival Wisconsin. The senior forward scored two goals as the Gophers dispensed of the Badgers with a 5-2 win during Hockey Day Minnesota.
"I liked the way we played tonight," said Boyd, whose team improved to 11-7-2 with Saturday’s victory. "Like I said last night, we’ve got to finish our chances. I thought we finished our chances a little better tonight."
The first of Boyd’s two opening-period goals came just 4:30 into the game. With the Gophers on an early power play, Boyd collected a rebound in front of Badgers goalie Joel Rumpel and buried it for a 1-0 Gophers lead.
Boyd’s linemate, Sam Warning, scored later in the first when he corralled a loose puck in the slot and scored his seventh goal of the season. Warning, a Missouri native, scored a hat trick on Hockey Day Minnesota one year earlier, and continued his success on the annual celebration by putting the Gophers up 2-0.
That’s when Boyd struck again, although the referees didn’t initially credit the Hopkins, Minn., native with a goal. Boyd crashed the net to follow an initial shot attempt by Warning that was stopped by Rumpel. After further review, however, it was ruled that Boyd’s goal was indeed good and gave Minnesota a 3-0 lead.
In total, the Gophers peppered Rumpel with 21 first-period shots. In Friday’s game, Minnesota had 20 shots on goal in the first period but had just the one goal to show for it. The Gophers did a much better job finishing around the net Saturday, as was evidenced by the 3-0 lead after one.
"Both games, we had 20 shots on goal in the first period. Last night, it’s one. Tonight we get three," said Gophers coach Don Lucia. "You give yourself a 3-0 lead at home and we were able to extend it, and the game was over after the second."
The Gophers continued to pour it on in the second period. Connor Reilly rifled a one-timer past Rumpel for his 11th goal of the season just 1:56 into the second, and Christian Isackson followed with a wraparound goal — his first of the year — at the 7:36 mark.
Minnesota let the Badgers hang around in Friday’s game, and Wisconsin eventually made the Gophers’ two-goal lead disappear to force overtime. The Gophers kept the foot on the gas Saturday, making sure the Badgers never got back into the action. Minnesota native Grant Besse added a pair of goals for Wisconsin, but it was too little, too late for the Badgers, who fell to 2-13-3 with the loss.
Most important for Minnesota was the victory, something the Gophers desperately needed coming into the weekend. Lucia’s team has seen itself slide in the national polls and the Pairwise ranking after winning just three contests in a 10-game stretch.
Friday’s tie felt like a loss, as the Gophers missed out on a chance at more points in the Big Ten standings. With Saturday’s convincing 5-2 victory, Minnesota skated away with three big points.
"We needed one," Lucia said of the win. "Even last night I thought we played well other than a couple instances, and it ended up costing us. Tonight we got rewarded with some goals. That was really the difference."
Of course, the weekend’s rivalry series couldn’t end without a bit of hostility. With 30 seconds remaining in the third period, Wisconsin’s Eddie Wittchow hit Gophers forward Leon Bristedt at center ice. That drew a reaction from Minnesota defenseman Mike Reilly, who stepped in to stick up for Bristedt. Both Wittchow and Reilly were given 10-minute penalties, and a fight ensued on the ice. In total, the Gophers and Badgers accounted for 17 third-period penalties for a total of 88 penalty minutes. At one point, Minnesota had six players in the penalty box.
When the dust settled, though, the Gophers emerged as winners of Saturday’s game. Now these same two teams will square off in just two weeks at the Kohl Center in Madison. Given how Saturday’s game ended, the already-high tension might be cranked up a notch for the rematch.
"I always look forward to playing Wisconsin," said Boyd. "But the way the game ended, yeah, I’m a little more excited to play them now."
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