March 2, 2012
The fourth-ranked Minnesota men’s hockey team had its four-game win snapped by border rival Wisconsin on Friday night, dropping a 4-1 decision at Mariucci Arena. Despite the loss, the Gophers clinched at least a share of the MacNaughton Cup as the WCHA’s regular-season champion when Minnesota-Duluth fell to St. Cloud State 2-1. Friday’s results also gave Minnesota the top seed in the upcoming WCHA playoffs.
After a fast period that featured several big hits from both teams, Wisconsin jumped out to a 1-0 lead. It was the second straight game Minnesota’s opponent struck first after the Gophers scored the first goal in their previous five games.
With 2:01 left in the first, Tyler Barnes notched his ninth goal of the season off a Ryan Little rebound three seconds after a Mark Zengerle faceoff win.
The Badgers broke the game open in the second period with three more goals, two of which came on the man advantage.
Wisconsin added to its lead 5:25 into the second when Ryan Little snapped a shot from the top of the right circle through a Tyler Barnes screen and over the shoulder of Gopher netminder Kent Patterson.
Zach Budish took Minnesota’s first penalty of the night for boarding just before the midway point of regulation and the Badgers capitalized.
Mark Zengerle and Justin Schultz worked the puck at the point in the Gopher zone before sending the puck cross-ice to Jake McCabe, who unleashed a shot from the right circle. Patterson caught it momentarily, but Michael Mersch pounced on the loose puck after it was dropped for his 14th goal of the season.
The Gophers had a quality scoring chance with 5:16 left in the middle stanza when Nico Sacchetti took the puck from Keegan Meuer in the offensive zone and fed captain Taylor Matson in the slot, but Sacchetti was whistled down for hooking Meuer on the play.
On the ensuing power play, Zengerle stepped around a Gopher defender after breaking into the zone and beat Patterson low on the stick side to make it 4-0 after two.
It was Zengerle’s fourth point of the night after he assisted on the Badgers’ first three goals.
Patterson was replaced for the first time all year to start the third period. Sophomore Michael Shibrowski, who hadn’t played since Feb. 6, 2010 in a game for Colorado College, saved all five shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. Patterson’s streak of 3414:13 (over 57 straight games) consecutive minutes came to an end.
Nico Sacchetti potted the Gophers’ only goal of the night with 1:02 to play, breaking Badger goaltender Joel Rumpel’s shutout bid.
The Gophers will wrap up their regular season tomorrow night with a rematch against Wisconsin. Minnesota will be looking to salvage a split both in the weekend series and the season series in the contest, which begins at 7 p.m.
Next Friday, Minnesota will open the WCHA playoffs at home by beginning a best-of-three series against Alaska-Anchorage.
Gophers Close Out First Half at MSU
The Maroon & Gold enter this weekend’s series with a 110-45-15 all-time record against Michigan State including a 45-27-8 mark on the road against the Spartans.
Sheehy Tabbed B1G Second Star
The sophomore leads the Gophers with 20 points and nine goals this year while his 11 assists are tied for the team lead.
Around the Rink: Vinni Lettieri
A native of Excelsior, Minn., Lettieri ranks second on the Gophers with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 14 games this season.