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Minnesota Hockey: Gophers fall 3-1 against Wisconsin to split series

The Maroon & Gold’s upcoming chance to win another Big Ten regular season title is next weekend on the road against Penn State

Matt Krohn

The Minnesota Gophers hockey team’s quest for their second straight Big Ten regular season title is on hold after a 3-1 loss on Saturday night to the Wisconsin Badgers inside Kohl center to split the series in Madison.

The Gophers’ next chance to do so is against Penn State next weekend, where they just need one win. The Maroon & Gold (15-4-1, 21-8-1) also snapped their eight-game streak without a regulation loss. The last one came in a 3-0 shutout loss to St. Cloud State back on Jan. 7.

The positive in the loss?

Red hot freshman Jimmy Snuggerud (17-23-40) assisted on Mike Koster’s first period goal to secure his 40th point of the season, which makes him the first freshman to do so since Kyle Rau back in 2011-12. Cooley can match Snuggerud if he notches two points in the final four contests.

After recording 14 points in 36 games in the 2021-22 campaign, Koster’s shot from the high slot that beat Kyle McClellan high blocker was his 19th point this season — and he still has four games left to add to his point totals this season.

The Gophers, however, didn’t hold the lead against Wisconsin, who sits in the basement of the Big Ten Conference. Cruz Lucius tied the game 71 seconds later, but it was the Badgers two even strength second period goals from Daniel Laatsch and Carson Bantle that helped them earn the split.

Connor Kurth later scored a goal in the second period to even the score, but it was eventually overturned in a controversial too-many men call before Bantle gave the Badgers a 3-1 lead.

The Gophers just didn’t have enough in the tank to force overtime like they’ve executed several times earlier this season. Close (.889 SV%) allowed three goals on 27 shots.

Just one night earlier, Minnesota won 4-1 with slick goals from Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud and then a pair from Bryce Brodzinski to start the border battle. Close stopped 36 of 37 for a .973 save percentage.

Saturday night’s final stats:

Shots — 33-29 Minnesota

Faceoffs — 26-22 Wisconsin

Power Play — Wisconsin (0-for-2), Minnesota (0-for-3)

The Gophers are on the road for a second week in a row with a series tilt against Penn State before finishing the regular season with a series at home against Ohio State.