Badgers ‘not ready for prime time,’ fall 5-2 to Gophers
MINNEAPOLIS — It took the Wisconsin Badgers almost three periods to surmount a rally in Friday’s tie against Minnesota. One day later, the Badgers never had that chance.
Wisconsin fell behind early and found itself in too big a hole to mount any type of comeback in Saturday’s series finale at Mariucci Arena. Minnesota stymied the Badgers and handed Wisconsin a 5-2 loss, one game after Wisconsin won a shootout against the Gophers.
"It just shows that we’re not where we want to be. We’re not ready for prime time," said Badgers coach Mike Eaves. "You get excited for them, but then you come back out here and you realize we’re not quite ready to play that kind of level back-to-back nights."
Minnesota scored three first-period goals, including two by senior forward Travis Boyd. Sam Warning also chipped in with a Gophers goal in the first as Badgers goalie Joel Rumpel allowed three goals on 21 first-period shots. In Friday’s game, Minnesota fired 20 shots on Rumpel in the first period, and the senior netminder made 19 saves. In total Saturday, Rumpel made 45 saves on 50 shots.
The Gophers eventually took a 5-0 lead as Connor Reilly fired a one-timer past Rumpel and Christian Isackson’s wraparound found the back of the net. Badgers sophomore Grant Besse scored both of Wisconsin’s goals. The first when he poked home a loose puck late in the second period to make it a 5-1 game. Besse — a Minnesota native — later scored in the final minutes to cut it to a 5-2 deficit.
Tensions started to mount in the third period between the two neighboring rivals. With less than a minute remaining, Wisconsin’s Eddie Wittchow hit Minnesota’s Leon Bristedt at center ice. Wittchow was whistled for contact to the head and was given a game disqualification. Gophers defenseman Mike Reilly retaliated on Wittchow and was also penalized for contact to the head and a game misconduct.
With the same two teams meeting again in two weekends, there was no love lost between the rivals.
"At the end, we play them in a couple weeks," Eaves said. "People are competitive. You don’t want to lie down. You want to play hard and smart. As we’ve said here recently, one of our short-term goals is to play our best hockey at the end of the year. This is all lending itself to that."
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