The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team lost 2-1 to the No. 9 Minnesota Golden Gophers on Friday night in front of a season-high crowd in a nailbiter overtime game.
Although competition was tight throughout the game, Minnesota walked away with an overtime win. The most eye-opening numbers were 40 saves for Minnesota’s Justen Close and just one penalty against either team — a phenomenon seldom seen in modern hockey.
All it took to tip the scales in Minnesota’s favor was a 2-on-1 odd-man rush. Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Oliver Moore put Minnesota ahead 1-0 in period one.
The Badgers pushed relentlessly in the second period, outshooting the Golden Gophers 21-5. Minnesota goaltender Close closed the door all night, denying the Badgers through the first two periods.
“Close has been around for a while. He’s played in some very big games and you’re not going to rattle him,” Badgers head coach Mike Hastings said in a press conference after the game. “From my standpoint, if you let Close see a puck, he’s going to stop it.”
The Badgers finally put one past Close a minute and a half into the third period. Owen Lindmark took the puck off a blocked shot and slid it into a corner past a helpless Close. Both teams traded looks for the rest of the period but neither found a goal, sending the game into overtime.
“I thought our end to the second was really good; we had the power play and we kept them in their zone the whole time,” Lindmark said after the game. “It was a good turning point in the game, and we tried to build momentum off that.”
Overtime was short-lived as the Golden Gophers made their first shot on-net. In a close mirror of the first goal, they found a 2-on-1 opportunity, but this time Oliver Moore passed to Brody Lamb, who sealed a 2-1 Golden Gopher victory.
“We can look in the mirror tonight and say ‘congratulations to Minnesota.’ Doesn’t make it easy,” Hastings said. “At the end of the day, it's a learning experience. We got a point, so this was not for naught. It was a battle. And I think you gotta tip your cap to Minnesota.”
Cruz Lucius was out Friday with an upper-body injury reported as “day-to-day.” Carson Bantle stepped up to join the first line in Lucius’ place alongside David Silye and Mathieu De St. Phalle. Tyson Dyck and Owen Mehlenbacher — who had been rotating in and out of the lineup — both got the start to complete the roster.
The Badgers will try again Saturday with a crowd expected to beat Friday night’s record.
“We're moving forward,” Hastings said. “Turn the page and both teams are gonna go back, get some water, get some food. Get up tomorrow morning. Check the video a little bit. Get right back at it. It's gonna be an opportunity for us to defend home ice tomorrow night.”
In good news for the Badgers, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish upset the Big Ten-leading Michigan State Spartans 4-1. That means that the Badgers narrowed the Spartans’ lead to just five points.
Simultaneously, the Badgers have to worry about who’s below them as the Golden Gophers are now within three points, making Saturday’s result as important as ever.
The Badgers will stay in town this coming weekend to face the Fighting Irish in a two-game series.
Ian Wilder is a senior staff writer and current men’s hockey beat reporter for The Daily Cardinal. He’s a former state politics and features reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.