It was a happy weekend for Gophers fans at Ridder Arena this weekend. The #2 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers took the first round of the biannual Border Battle between the Gophers ad the #1 ranked Wisconsin Badgers. The Gophers got a 4-2 win on Saturday before tying the Badgers 2-2 on Sunday and winning the extra conference point on one of the best shootout goals you will ever see at any level of hockey.
It’s always a good atmosphere when rivals Minnesota and Wisconsin get together, and the Ridder crowd delivered this weekend. Minnesota got off to a bit of a slow start in the first period on Saturday. Boston College transfer Daryl Watts continued her hot streak to begin the season by putting the Badgers up 1-0 just over five minutes into the game. She came down the left side and ripped a wrister right over the left shoulder of Minnesota goalie Sydney Scobee. Wisconsin would outshoot Minnesota 10-3 in the first period and take that 1-0 lead into the lockerroom.
Gopher coach Brad Frost must have had some magic words for his team at intermission, because the Gophers looked like a completely different team int he second period. The Gophers passing was better and they had several top scoring chances until they finally broke through on a pair of great plays by the Potomak sisters. Amy would poke check the puck away from the Badger defender who was trying to bring the puck out of their zone, and it would end up right on the stick of her sister Sarah who put the puck through the five-hole of Wisconsin goalie Kristin Campbell to tie the game at one.
Exactly 100 seconds later the Gophers would take the lead. Minnesota controlled the puck in the badger end when Emily Brown slid it behind the net to Taylor Heise. Heise skated behind the net and found Graze Zumwinkle who was camped out alongside the near post with a perfect pass for a one-timer which she put in the back of the net to put the Gophers up 2-1.
That’s how the second period would end. But Zumwinkle wasn’t done. She would give the Gophers a two goal lead at 3-1 just 4:51 into the third period when she took a pass from Sarah Potomak and skated up the left side of the rink. Once across the blue like she cut to the middle of the ice and unleashed a rocket that beat Campbell and rang off of the far goalpost. The puck caromed off of the post and right into the back of Campbell’s pads and before she could realize where the puck was at it slid back across the goal line.
Once again Minnesota struck again in quick time. Just 68 seconds later Alex Woken put the Gophers ahead by what seems to be an insurmountable three goals. Taylor Wente had the puck behind the Badger net and found Amy Potomake in front of the goal. The puck deflected off of her stick and right to Woken and wasted no time putting it past Campbell.
Presley Norby would add one more goal for Wisconsin with 3:45 left in the game but it was too little too late as Minnesota earned the 4-2 win. The four goals given up by Campbell tie her career worst performance and is only the second time in her career she has given up four goals. The other also came at Ridder Arena, but it was Colgate as the opponent in the 2018 NCAA Frozen Four semifinal. The win for Minnesota snapped a 24-game unbeaten streak and a 17-game winning streak for Wisconsin. Scobee finished with 31 saves and tied her season high for Minnesota to earn the win.
The teams returned to the ice on Sunday with Wisconsin trying to salvage a split in the series, and Minnesota out for blood. Both teams had good opportunities in the first period, but it took until 5:24 left in the frame for someone to get a puck past the goalies. That would be Gopher sophomore Taylor Heise. Heise was in front of the net and tipped in a shot from the point by Gracie Ostertag to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead that they would take to the locker room.
Wisconsin dominated the second period offensively, but could not get a puck past Scobee. She made nine saves in the period, several quite impressively and kept the Gophers ahead 1-0 after two periods.
The lead wouldn;t last however. Britta Curl tied the game for Wisconsin 3:40 into the period on an unassisted goal toe tie the game at one. But Minnesota once again struck right back. Sarah Potomak put the Gophers back up 2-1 two minutes later when she tipped an Olivia Knowles shot past Campbell.
The lead would only last 1:21 as Dara Greig would tie the game at two for the Badgers. Boht team had looks but Wisconsin controlled most of the momentum towards the end of the third period, but Scobee stood tall to keep the game knotted at two and headed to overtime.
In the five minute five on five overtime period, Wisconsin once again controlled the majority of the period. Minnesota did not record a shot on goal, but Scobee’s six saves plus a little help from the goal post on a Watts shot kept the game at two each and recorded in the official record books as a tie.
The two teams next played their first ever five minute 3x3 overtime period to try and determine the winner of the extra WCHA conference point in the standings. Once again, neither team could score and the game would advance to a sudden death shootout to determine who would get the extra point.
Emily Brown took the first shot for Minnesota and fired wide of the net. Watts took the first shot for the Badgers and Scobee stopped her to keep the game going to another round. Then Amy Potomak stepped up for Minnesota.
Potomak nearly scored in Saturday’s game when she went past a Badger defender and went between her legs and ripped a shot that Campbell made a tough save on. She had a bit more success Sunday afternoon.
For even more shots of the amazing extra point winning goal, click on the link above to go to out other story on the game.
Wisconsin still had a chance to keep the game going but Abby Roque was stopped by Scobee and Minnesota would celebrate. Scobee set a new season high with 32 saves in the game. Her 63 saves in the two-game series also set a career best for the senior.
The five points by the Gophers jump Minnesota to the top of the WCHA standings with 20 points. They also will most likely leapfrog the Badgers and become the new #1 team in the nation this week in all of the various polls. But everyone knows the only ranking that really matters is the one at the end of the year. You can bet both these teams will have January 24th and 25th circled on their calendars when the Gophers made the return trip to Madison.
Minnesota plays an exhibition game Tuesday against D3’s Hamline Pipers at Ridder. The Pipers were the NCAA Division III runner’s up a year ago and are coached by former Gopher legend and US Hockey Hall of Famer Natalie Darwitz. The Gophers will then have the weekend off while several staff members head out to Pennsylvania for the joint training camp for the US Women’s National team and the Canadian National Team. Minnesota returns to action when they host Bemidji State at Ridder on November 15th and 16th.