Gophers Drop First WCHA Game Of Season

Go Gophers! Minnesota dropped its first WCHA game of the season on Friday.
Go Gophers!
Minnesota dropped its first WCHA game of the season on Friday.
Go Gophers!

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The top-ranked Minnesota men’s hockey team suffered its first WCHA loss and dropped its first road game of the season on Friday night, falling 3-1 to Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. The Badgers scored three goals in a 5:38 span in the second period to help freshman goaltender Joel Rumpel earn his fourth win of the season between the pipes.

After playing two intense, fast-paced games in a sweep over North Dakota last weekend, the Gophers and Badgers played a slower opening 20 minutes that featured a total of just ten shots.

With 3:11 to go in the first, UW got the period’s best scoring chance. Tyler Barnes of Wisconsin entered the Minnesota zone and was stopped by UM defenseman Seth Helgeson. Barnes then dished a pass to the late-entering Mark Zengerle, who was stuffed with a great left-pad save by UM’s Kent Patterson on a one-time shot attempt.

Early in the second, Patterson kept the game scoreless again by making a save on a two-on-one by UW’s Keegan Meuer and Sean Little.

The Badgers opened the scoring three and a half minutes later when Zengerle buried a feed by Barnes in front of the Minnesota net on the tail end of another two-on-one opportunity.

Wisconsin added to its lead just 45 seconds later when a shot by Meuer from the near the right half wall in the Minnesota zone deflected off Gopher defenseman Ben Marshall and past Patterson to make it 2-0.

Michael Mersch of the Badgers almost cushioned his team’s lead with another goal on a breakaway with 12:37 left in the period, but the Wisconsin sophomore’s slapshot bid was stopped by Patterson.

Mersch made up for his miss 1:31 later when UW defenseman Justin Schultz sent him in alone again while the Gophers were in the midst of a line change. Mersch deked Patterson to the right and beat the UM goaltender through the five-hole to give the Badgers a three-goal lead.

One minute later, Minnesota senior Jake Hansen came close to cutting the Gopher deficit to two on a chance just outside of the crease in the offensive end, but Wisconsin defender Eric Springer made a stick check that delayed Hansen’s release and the shot was kept out by Rumpel’s right pad.

With 4:51 left in the middle frame, Hansen had another scoring opportunity on a two-on-one with sophomore Erik Haula, but Rumpel swallowed up the senior’s blast from the right circle.

Working on a power-play with 69 seconds remaining in the third period, Hansen finally got the Gophers on the board by potting his fourth goal of the year, knocking home a Marshall rebound.

The goal broke Rumpel’s shutout bid, but the Badgers easily held on for a 3-1 victory.

The loss dropped Minnesota to 6-1-0 in the WCHA, but the Gophers will still own a three-point lead in the conference standings entering tomorrow night’s rematch, which starts at 7:30.

UM will look to avoid being swept on the road for the first time since Dec. 3 and 4, 2010 against Minnesota State in the game, which will air on the Big Ten Network.