Thanks to a shocking comeback Friday night, the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers’ (9-2) long anticipated matchup against the rival No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-5) ended with a thrilling finish, as a Daryl Watts overtime goal sent game one to the Badgers.
While the Badgers played well in regulation, they were consistently outshot by the Gopher offense, which was able to hold an early lead after scoring quickly in the first and second periods. This early lead didn’t hold up for the Gophers however, as the Badgers were able to keep pace, scoring in the second and third periods. Eventually the Badgers evened up the score, netting the game-tying goal with just 35 seconds remaining in regulation.
One particular area of improvement for the Badgers is being able to convert on scoring opportunities. While the Badgers were able to create space and get shots on goal, too often shots hit the crossbar or made for easy saves. However, the Badgers were able to make up for these missed opportunities by showing out with a clutch third period performance, coming behind from two goals to tie up the game.
On the Badgers’ comeback, Coach Mark Johnson credits his players with being able to create opportunities late in the game.
“The last seven or eight minutes of the third period we created some pretty good chances and had some good opportunities,” Johnson said postgame after the win. “But they were defending, they were blocking shots and doing some things that you need to do in order to keep the other team off the board.”
While the Gopher defense was certainly formidable throughout the game, the offensive firepower that the Badgers have been able to demonstrate so many times throughout this season clearly won the day.
Watts, who scored two goals on the day, looked at today’s win as an opportunity for the Badgers to build confidence during the most important part of their season.
"I think it's great,” Watts said of the victory. “Like [Johnson] said after the game, it was a big character moment for us which shows us that no matter the score in the third period, no matter who we're playing, we can come back and we can win. Moving towards the end of the season I think that's huge for us, a huge confidence booster."
Wisconsin will close out its series with Minnesota Saturday evening in Minneapolis.