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Minnesota Golden Gopher Hockey: Gophers Dominate, Blow Two Goal Lead, Tie Wisconsin Badgers 2-2

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gophersports.com

Well, this game started the way we all would like to see every game start.  The Minnesota Golden Gophers completely overwhelmed the Wisconsin Badgers in the first period.  Everything went right: the Gophers controlled the puck, they completed passes all over the ice.  They created scoring chances by forcing turnovers in the offensive zone. How badly did Minnesota dominate the period, you ask?

Minnesota took the first 18  shots of the game, 13 of those came the first ten minutes. and many more attempted shots.  I guess they took the possession issue to heart.  At the end of the period, the Gophers had 20 shots on goal to Wisconsin's 3.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel played very well in the first period, making nineteen saves.  He had a little help in the form of lots of shots aimed at his chest.

Sam Warning scored the only goal of the first period, one-timing Travis Boyd pass through goaltender Joel Rumpel on a pass from Travis Boyd. The goal is precisely how you would like to see this team score in five-on-five.  Boyd picks Eddie Wittchow's pocket down low, quick pass to Sam Warning for the goal.

Minnesota also played pretty well in the defensive zone, when the Badgers managed to push the puck that far.  Freshman Ryan Collins had a bad turnover low in the zone, but it didn't directly lead to a scoring opportunity.

Grant Bessie, a Minnesota expat, clanged the iron over Wilcox's glove late in the period, but that was Wisconsin's only real opportunity of the first.  Minnesota's defenders did a great job of keeping the Badgers to the outside.  The best thing they did was gain possession and exit the zone.  They were also able to move the puck through the neutral zone easily.

All the pressure led to two first period penalties called on Wisconsin.  Minnesota played a clean first frame.

Early in the second, another freshman defenseman had a bad turnover that almost led to a breakaway.  Steve Johnson lost control of the puck in the backside of the neutral zone.  Fortunately, he was able to recover and poke check the puck away from the Wisconsin forward.

In the second period, there was a scramble down on the side Rumpel's goal, and a Wisconsin defender got away with pushing the net off its moorings.  All four officials converged on the crease, but somehow did not call a delay of game penalty.  Rumpel was completely behind the net and caught in traffic.  This would become a recurring defensive strategy for the Badgers.

Compared to the first period, the second was somewhat uneventful.  It was more evenly played, meaning Minnesota didn't have quite as many attempted shots and shots on goal.  On the other hand, Wisconsin didn't have many more shot attempts either.  The Badgers were completely incapable of establishing a presence in the offensive zone.  The Gophers did a nice job of not allowing odd-man counter-punches with defenders stepping up in the offense.

The old Adam Wilcox made an appearance late in the second.  The Badgers had a three-on-two rush which resulted in puck movement from Wilcox's right to his left, and a clean shot from the slot back to the right side of the goal.  Wilcox threw out up the blocker and put the shot down into the corner.  It was one of THOSE Wicox saves.  It was especially important because Minnesota still only had a one-goal lead, despite out-shooting the Badgers 28-10 and out-chancing them 13-3.

Minnesota received an early penalt to start the third.  Nine seconds in, Hudson Fashching caused a turnover and was dragged down as he broke toward the goal.  The Gophers didn't score on the ensuing powerplay, and they struggled a bit to get shots through the traffic in front of the net.

Fasching drew another penalty (a hook) as he entered the offensive zone.  Wilcox cleared the ice, and the Gophers finally broke through with a goal with the 6 on 5 advantage.  A shot from the point was redirected, and redirected again off of Fasching's hand has he fought for position in front of the net.  It was Fasching's first goal in ten games.

Since the goal was scored with the penalty delayed, the Gophers immediately had a powerplay after the goal.  Just nineteen seconds into that advantage, the Badgers took another penalty as Brad Naven cross-checked Kyle Rau in the back.  The 5 on 4 powerplay was on.  Somehow, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves pretended to be upset after the obvious penalty was called.  Even two full minutes later, he was still complaining to the officials.

Minnesota didn't score on the powerplay, but they had a lot of shots, as you would expect in a 5 on 3 situation.

Wisconsin scored on their fifteenth shot of the Game.  Grant Bessie slammed home a one-timer from the left side of the net as a Minnesota defenseman again misplayed a 2-on-1 situation.  This time it was Brady Skjei.  Facing a skater with the puck on his right, and Bessie coming in from the left, Skjei left is skates and slid toward the puck, trying to block the shot, I guess.  He left Bessie wide-open on the back side.  Skjei had no hope of blocking the shot, and he vacated the area in which the shot was taken, and didn't pick up the man.  He had a choice between covering the backside and any attackers, or not doing that.  He chose not doing that.  The game was once again a one-goal affair.

In a replay of that goal, the Gophers again lost track of another back-side attacker on a 3-on-2, and the game was suddenly tied, despite Minnesota owning a 40-16 shot advantage.  The backchecking Gopher forward, Seth Ambroz, missed him completely.  Same setup, pass from right to left.  Wilcox had zero chance on either goal.

Next, Mike Eave's politicking paid off, and the Badgers were gifted a powerplay when Justin Kloos was called for goaltender interference.  It must have appeared to the referee that Kloos contacted the goalie, casing Rumpel to fall.  Really, Kloos made slight contact with Rumpel, and Rumpel dove to try and cover a gaping goalmouth.

Wisconsin officially had the momentum for the first time in the game, but they wouldn't score on the ensuing powerplay.

Inexplicably, this game was headed for overtime despite a shot shot differential of 16 in favor of Minnesota.  Mike Eaves enjoyed a good laugh with the linesman.  Including overtime, the Gophers out-shot Wisconsin 49 to 20.

Since this is the way things go, the game ended in a tie, but they played a shootout anyway.  And since it's the Gophers, they lost the shootout.

This is a good lesson in hockey: you can dominate 95% of a game, but if you make big mistakes you can still tie (lose) a game.  The same defensive problems reared their ugly head today (namely, playing horribly against odd-man rushes).  And it really bit them backside today.  This team couldn't buy a win with a hundred dollar bill in their pocket.

They played really well today.  You can't say anything about the effort, which was above average. I was tempted to say that they deserved to win, but that's not true.  In two critical situations, with a two goal lead, they left attackers wide-open.  That's not a good way to win games.

Notes:

The fourth line of Leon Bristed, AJ Michaelson, and Christian Isackson did a great job on the forecheck.  They put a lot pressure on the Wisconsin net.  Unfortunately, it didn't materialize into goals.

Leon Bristedt can stick-handle.  Might be the best on the team.  He also had a great look from the slot on a pass coming from the corner.  One-timed the attempt, but drove it straight into Rumpel's center mass.  Not an easy play, but he'll learn to direct those toward the corners of the net eventually.  I hate this term, but his "compete level" was fantastic today.  It turns out his parents and grandparents are in town from Sweden for the weekend, so that might have provided some extra motivation.

Taylor Cammarata had sloppy puck control game.  He did not look like his usual sure-handed self through the whole first period.

Grant Bessie is really good.  I wonder if he'll stick around for another season after this one.  I don't see it happening.

Minnesota did a pretty good job winning faceoffs tonight.  While it added to the overall possession dominance, it doesn't mean much if you don't put the puck in the net.

That was the main issue today: too many shots into Joel Rumpel's chest.  About 46 of them.